Chinatown Bus Hikes Tickets to $15

Popular, cheap student transport changes route to dock at South Station

The “Chinatown bus”—a low-budget travel staple for cash-strapped students—will now come with a higher price tag.

In response to financial pressures, the Fung Wah Bus Transportation, which once offered hourly shuttles between the Chinatowns of Boston and New York City for as little as $10, has raised its fares to match those of competitors and has moved the buses to a more mainstream route.

The Fung Wah service had featured curbside pick-up and drop-off points on Canal Street in lower Manhattan and Beach Street in Boston.

While arrivals to New York City will still disembark to the aromas of central Chinatown, Boston-bound buses will drop off at the tonier South Station.

The “Fung Wah” has also upped the cost of a one-way ticket to $15, to match the fares of Lucky Star, another Chinatown-to-Chinatown line.

In the past, students flocked to the buses for their low prices—but have also grumbled about the Fung Wah’s shortcomings, ranging from technological mishaps to troubles with staff.

Brianne C. Janacek ’07, who took the Chinatown bus to New York City last intersession, said her experience almost brought her to tears.

“I took the Fung Wah last intersession, and the trip there took 45 minutes longer than it should have because of a blizzard,” Janacek said. “The driver kept putting on the brake—it was kind of scary.”

But for some, the buses’ no-frills approach is part of the Fung Wah experience.

“One time the door fell off the bus while we were driving,” said Joanna J. Parga ’07, a Long Island native and a frequent Fung Wah patron, with a laugh. “Another time, they tried to open the door but couldn’t, and we had to drive in circles until they got some guys to pry it off.”

But Parga said that with the higher prices, and with other lines offering more convenient New York drop-offs, she would not use the Fung Wah this year.

A spokeswoman for Fung Wah president Pei Lin Liang said the higher fares reflected the added price and convenience of using South Station as a terminal.

The spokeswoman, who refused to give her name, also said the buses’ low prices could not be sustained in the face of intense competition between Chinatown lines and the larger Greyhound carriers.

When Fung Wah launched its first buses in 1998, it was the only company offering Chinatown-to-Chinatown service. But according to Fung Wah’s spokeswoman, Lucky Star Bus was the first company to offer $10 one-way fares between Boston and New York City, beginning in April 2003.

The $10 fare ultimately proved untenable for both companies—it was, the spokeswoman said, a “suicide amount.”

But convenience was not the only motivation behind the move and the attendant price hike.