Fung Wah May Be Gone Forever

The beleaguered Chinatown bus line is having trouble finding space to load and drop off passengers in Boston.

Unable to reclaim its old space in the South Station bus terminal, the beleaguered Fung Wah Chinatown bus line may be off the road for good.

The line was temporarily shut down by Federal regulators in March 2013 due to safety violations in an action that spawned an outpouring of attention, horror stories, and even musical odes. But after taking steps to improve driving standards, address maintenance issues, buy new buses, and post a new website, Fung Wah got permission to begin limited operations. Getting Federal approval, though, wasn’t the final hurdle. Getting someone in the city of Boston to make room for Fung Wahs’ return, it seems, might be the obstacle it can’t overcome.

During the shutdown, Pei Lin Liang, president of Fung Wah Bus Transportation Inc. posted an angry letter to the company’s website complaining that the government’s slow timetable and heavy hand amounted to a “death sentence” for the company. It’s hard, after all, for a bus line to disappear for years and still find customers waiting when it hits the road.

And indeed, it seems that being off the road for so long may have come with lethal consequences. According to a report published in the Chinese-language paper World Journal, Liang says the company has lost its old space in South Station and can’t locate another one in Boston. Without it, or another spot in the city to pick up and drop off passengers, the company’s outlook looks poor.

The translated news story reads:

“If I can’t get the Boston stop back, then I’ll have to close down for good,” Mr. Liang said. Other than the repeated hiring and dismissal of hopeful employees, the costs of renting and insurance for buses had also become increasingly difficult burdens to bear. “Offices in Boston and New York’s Chinatown, vehicle insurance, and legal fees exceed $100,000 per month, and without business for revenue, there are just huge expenses.”

New York, meanwhile, has made accommodations for Fung Wah’s return. A Community Board approved their use of two stops on Canal Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood, and the company built out its New York ticketing office, the Globe reports. Boston, it seems, is the limiting factor.

For those who shared their horror stories from the bus line on the occasion of its shutdown, this might not come as sad news. But a report in the Chinese-language paper, which serves a different community, sounds notes of  regret. (“As with many things, the end is bittersweet, years of customer appreciation and satisfaction crashing to a slow and painfully drawn-out end,” the story notes.) Despite its reputation, the line served a community for years. Still, that reputation for lax safety, the regulation it elicited, and finally, its long absence from the roads may have done the line in for good.