Often referred to as "Dragon Buses" or simply "Chinatown Buses are services offered by companies founded by Chinese American or Chinese Canadians which offer low cost no frills transportation from a Chinatown District in one city to another. (Boston Chinatown <---> NYC Chinatown <----> Washington DC Gallery Place Chinatown)
Despite the efforts of larger companies like Greyhound (Bolt Bus) and Coach USA-Stagecoach Group (Megabus) to capture some of this market Chinatown buses remain a fixture of any major city on the East Coast. Here are the major players:
Vacances Sinorama/Autocars Gaudreault MCI J4500
Vacances Sinorama: Perhaps the most organized and professional of all the Chinatown bus services Sinorama Bus operates out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Operating both charter service and 3 day guided tours Sinorama Bus caters largely to Canadians and Americans of Chinese descent by offering Tours of major East Coast Cities in Mandarin, French and English. Unique among this type of service, Sinorama Bus does not own its fleet but partners with established Coach and Charter Companies to provide the vehicles. A unique partnership that gives both companies steady business.
Lucky Star Setra S13
Lucky Star Bus: Focusing on the Boston <-----> NYC Hub Lucky Star was a major player in the Chinatown bus scene until being ordered to halt operations after major safety defects were discovered among its fleet. In one instance a manhole cover was found to be wedged between the Chassis and body frame, that could only be missed due to a lack of a maintenance schedule. Its fleet was taken out of service by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration until it was brought up to standards. Lucky Star was recently given the All Clear by the FMCSA to begin operating again after passing inspection.
Safeway Tours Prevost H3-45
Safeway Tours: Operating out of Canada, Another service on the more Professional side, Safeway Tours offers charter service in areas with high populations of Chinese descent. Its focus is primarily on the Casino Market. As Gambling laws in major Eastern Cities in both Canada and the United States become more relaxed buses are needed to take passengers back and forth to the new Casinos and Hotels that have been established following the trend. Safeway Tours operates a fleet with newer safer buses and caters to a higher clientele.
Fung Wah Bus Van Hool C2045
Fung Wah Bus Transportation: Nearly everyone who has ever used a Chinatown Bus out of NYC has heard of Fung Wah (Chinese for Magnificent Wind). Fung Wah Bus was one of the first Chinatown bus companies to take off capturing a market which was largely ignored by Greyhound. The Boston Chinatown to NYC Chinatown business started with Fung Wah Bus and after its success prompted others to follow suit and imitate its clever business model. Fung Wah Bus sold tickets in Kiosks on the side walk in both Chinatown districts lowering overhead costs by not having much real estate. Buses did not use terminals which cost money but picked passengers up on the side walk. The business was very profitable however Fung Wah ignored all Federal and State (Massachusetts and New York) regulations with regard to bus travel and maintenance. It's fleet consisted of older model Van Hool coaches which if maintained properly would not have been an issue. Fung Wah Buses routinely broke down while on their route and there were several instances of the buses catching fire due to a lack of maintenance. Fung Wah Bus also had notoriously terrible safety record with accidents including serious roll overs on the highway and buses crashing into buildings and store fronts. Drivers at Fung Wah rarely spoke English and according to passengers would run red lights and drive very fast to get passengers to the destination early, disregarding traffic laws. Fung Wah was ordered to shut down by the FMCSA pending a review of its fleet. Fung Wah was given a deadline to get all of its buses up to proper inspection before being allowed to operate. Fung Wah Bus has since been permanently shut down by the FMCSA. It is rumored its buses have returned to service under a different Alias.
YO! Bus MCI J4500
YO! Bus: Yo! Bus was an attempt by Greyhound to capture some of the Chinatown bus business after the smaller private companies had become successful. Greyhound took its oldest buses operating in the east coast and rebranded them with YO! Bus livery and began to offer a service similar to the other Chinatown bus companies. The company was projected to be successful as Greyhound's fleet of buses were well maintained and safety is a big concern to riders of Chinatown buses. YO! Bus offered trips to Philadelphia as well. However Greyhound was not able to lower prices enough to be competitive with the smaller companies. YO! Bus was replaced with Greyhound's BoltBus service and competes with both the Chinatown Buses and with Megabus for the NYC market.
Apex Bus Van Hool C2045
Apex Bus: Starting a bit further south, Apex Bus Links Norfolk, Virginia with Washington DC and then from DC to either Philadelphia or NYC. Apex Bus much like Lucky Star was shut down due to maintenance concerns. The company temporarily rebranded itself while shut down by the FMCSA to stay in business. Its fleet was brought up to inspection but the company was fined for skirting regulations.
Eastern Shuttle Van Hool C2045
Eastern Shuttle: Just before the Feds started their east coast bus inspection purge, Greyhound had been attempting to buy into one of the Chinatown operators to avoid spending money using its own fleet. This perked the interest of Coach USA as well and Coach USA invested in Eastern Shuttle taking the smaller company to a higher level with increasing business. Coach USA has since withdrawn from Eastern Shuttle and retained control over one of its two routes while retaining similar branding. Coach USA buses operating under the Eastern branding have pictures of Pandas painted on them and are much newer.
Would you use a Chinatown Bus?
Lucky Star and Eastern