One unique bit of information we gleaned from Thursday's news of a big federal crackdown that shuttered 26 different Chinatown bus operations is that the more colorfully painted buses tend to be safer. As The Associated Press explained, bus operators who get shut down by regulators like the U.S. Department of Transportation (which oversaw this latest operation) often reopen for business with a different name or in a different location. "Buses belonging to such rogue companies are known in the industry as "ghost" buses because they are frequently painted white with relatively little decoration to make it easier to repaint them with a new company name." So look for a lot of colors when choosing a bus line, to try to avoid those ghosts.
The crazy thing about Thursday's crackdown news, the culmination of a year-long DOT investigation, is what it reveals about the complicated web of operators behind the buses that crowd Chinatown streets in New York and elsewhere -- though the AP reported that "most of the 233 bus routes serviced by the companies either departed from or terminated in New York City's Chinatown district." In the end, the operation targeted only three umbrella companies: New York's Apex Bus Inc. and I-95 Coach Inc., and Philadelphia-based New Century Travel Inc. But as Bloomberg's Jeff Plungis explains, "The three primary targets controlled a network of other companies, leading to the 26 separate shut-down orders, the department said. The companies’ networks included one ticket seller, nine active bus companies, 13 companies already out of service that were continuing to operate and three companies applying for permission to operate."
The safety violations are pretty serious too, Bloomberg notes: "The carriers involved had multiple safety violations, including drivers without valid commercial licenses and drivers violating federal driving-time limits; failure to test for drugs and alcohol; and vehicles that hadn’t been regularly inspected or repaired." Yikes.