NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government Assault on Chinatown Bus Industry Fueled by Bogus Federal Study

May 10, 2013

In 2011, a horrible bus crash in the Bronx killed 15 people. The bus operator, World Wide Travel, was known as a "Chinatown bus." Curbside operators like World Wide Travel do not operate out of conventional bus stations but instead pick passengers up right off the street. Curbside operators were growing in popularity until two years ago when the government began shutting down curbside operators after a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report found that Chinatown bus fatalities were seven times more likely than regular bus fatalities. An examination of the evidence reveals that the NTSB report was essentially doctored, using false data to reach a predetermined conclusion, says Jim Epstein, a producer at Reason TV.

  • Following the World Wide Travel crash, New York Senator Charles Schumer requested the NTSB study bus safety to corroborate his claims that Chinatown buses were unsafe.
  • The study counted 37 accidents during the study period involving curbside buses where at least one fatality was recorded.
  • The NTSB classifies 71 bus companies as curbside carriers and 51 companies as conventional.

An investigation of the study's results shows that the findings are inaccurate.

  • First, many of the 71 bus companies considered curbside carriers do not have curbside buses, including Greyhound and Peter Pan, which were considered curbside but are the nation's largest conventional carriers.
  • Second, of the 37 accidents reported by the study, 30 of the accidents did not involve curbside buses. Of those 30 accidents, 24 involved Greyhound's conventional bus fleet.
  • Third, given the small number of accidents, it is very difficult to conclude such a large result (fatalities being seven times more likely for curbside operators).

After the NTSB refused to share its data with inquiring minds, several researchers rebuilt the data set and conducted their own statistical analysis. Their results indicate that conventional buses could have a higher fatality rate than curbside buses.

Despite the contrasting evidence, the NTSB is standing by its report as curbside bus companies continue to come under fire from government regulators.

Source: Jim Epstein, "Government Assault on the Chinatown Bus Industry Fueled By Bogus Federal Study," Reason Magazine, May 7, 2013.


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