New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fung Wah

If you're going into business, I would not suggest competing against members of the Chinese community. As we saw in my recent posting Ridiculous, produce can be had in Chinatown at an absurd fraction of going retail prices elsewhere. If you are traveling to Boston or any other number of select cities in the Northeast, the price of a bus ticket from Fung Wah or other competitors makes one wonder - how do they do it? and will I get there alive?
I was first told about the Chinatown bus phenomenon by a college student, typically a good source of information on the latest in deals and discounts, online and off. Word travels fast in the price savvy and networked student community and it was not long before the larger world of New York City became aware of pricing that was, well, just astonishing.
Of course like anything deeply discounted, the phrase Chinatown bus, connotes different things to different people. To the cost conscious on a very tight budget, it is a blessing. To the well heeled it is perhaps a good example of how not to travel and you get what you pay for.
Bus travel is the lowest common denominator of the commercial travel options. From the perspective of utility, buses will transport you from here to there at the lowest prices. In 1997, Fung Wah, operating as a local dollar van service, took bus pricing to new lows. The pioneering effort was started by Pei Lin Liang. Liang saw the need for competitive pricing to Boston where many students were located.
There are now a number of companies in this cut throat business located on Forsyth Street (photo at right). There are various destinations available, typically cities with Chinatowns such as Philadelphia, Washington, DC or Boston. Employees hustle anyone who walks the street there, as if price alone will be an incentive to travel. Admittedly, at times I have been tempted to get on board just to take advantage of the extraordinary deals. A one way ticket to Boston costs a mere $15, with buses leaving hourly.
Reviews are mixed with some reports of overworked drivers, poor service, inadequate number of stops (in vans) and above average number of accidents. At these prices, however, most travelers will tolerate a lot. The only expectation is to get to their destination and get there uninjured ...

9 comments:

Wayne said...

Cherries for $1 a pound is a bargain. Getting to Boston from NYC, alive, priceless. Take the train, it's cheap too.

Ruby Fuerza AKA Lucille Brawl said...

Your site makes me homesick.

Love,
Ruby

Kris said...

Great story. We’ve got nothing like that here in Tasmania, we need a bigger Chinese community!

khalid said...

Actually I've taken the Chinatown bus to Philly a few times (not sure if it was Fung Wah). Back then in 2004 it really was ridiculously cheap, 20 bucks for a return ticket. Inflation must have hit them too.

Michael said...

The phrase "Chinatown Bus" made me thing there would be chickens and goats on the bus. I was kinda disappointed that there were none.

exfactor said...

Bolt Bus - NYC to Boston or DC for ridiculously low prices (similar to Fung Wah) but with new buses, pleather seats, more leg room, free on-board wifi, and seat power outlets - can't beat it!

the mountain king said...

I'm hoping to take this bus one day.

Let's not forget MegaBus though. From NYC to Boston, Philly, DC, Buffalo...$1 (if you book it maybe 2 months in advance otherwise it could be $12-$40.

Anonymous said...

You can search for many cheap bus tickets at www.gotobus.com

Mame said...

I got out of a cab near Fung Wah with a suitcase and a woman in a bright green T-shirt popped up out of nowhere and said, "DC or Boston?" She carried my bag! I paid $15 to get to Boston and picked up a tasty lunch in Chinatown for $4.85! It was great.

Nice pictures!