Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tribune-Review on Pittsburgh's Chinatown bus station.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has an article today about the Chinatown bus running from Pittsburgh's Strip District to New York City.
[S]everal people quietly wait outside a nondescript, one-story building with their rolling travel bags, bookbags and pillows. Some pass the time by smoking; others stare at their cellphones. Most turn down interview requests, saying they speak little or no English. The front door of the building opens, and they enter a foyer and disappear downstairs into the basement to buy tickets.

Within an hour, they'll board an unmarked white bus that pulls up outside and be on their way to New York's Chinatown.

“People needed an alternative to Greyhound, Megabus and Amtrak. The Chinese coach buses are reasonably priced, clean, and the travel time is much quicker because they don't have all those frequent stops,” said George Chow, who helps market the interstate bus line that's known locally as Great Wall Line Inc.
The Chinatown bus station moved from its Oakland location to 1613 Penn Ave. (map) Strip District on September 1, 2014.

Chinatown buses enjoyed their highest popularity here before Megabus and other alternatives to Greyhound emerged. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a short profile on some of the lines servicing Pittsburgh in 2006, and their popularity among non-Asians given the lack of affordable intercity public transportation.
Kin Yeung of McCandless said that when he took a Fung Wah bus from New York's Chinatown to Boston, more than half of the passengers were non-Asian.

Nonetheless, "a lot of people in the Chinese community in Pittsburgh are using these bus services because they're so cheap," he said.
The Chinatown bus lines followed a business model similar to the discount lines today:
[Greyhound spokeswoman Anna] Folmnsbee said Greyhound's generally higher bus prices, for the most part, subsidized buildings and staff.

"We put a lot of money into our facilities, to make sure our passengers have a safe, comfortable, warm place to wait and customer service agents who tell you where to go to line up," she said. "Plus our passengers know we offer more schedules, a dozen to New York per day as opposed to maybe a handful."

While Ms. Folmnsbee declined to discuss how Greyhound regards the advent of low-cost Chinatown bus services, the company did sue Fung Wah in 2004 for lacking proper permits.