Cheapest Way to Travel on East Coast???

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Cheapest Way to Travel on East Coast???
By Bern700 (Bern700) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:36 pm: Edit

For all of you east coast people. In a week I'll be going to school in Philly. Many of my friends are also going to the east coast so I'll probably want to visit them. What is the cheapest way to travel b/w Philly and Boston, Philly and NY, Philly and DC???

I've heard that there are these things called "Chinatown Buses" which take you from the chinatown in one city to the chinatown in the other city. They are supposed to be very very cheap (like $20 round trip b/w PHL and NYC, $35 round trip b/w PHL and BOS, and PHL and DC). However, I hear that they are run by the Asian mobs and they might not be very safe. Because there have been some struggles b/w competing mobs.

So if anybody could comment on the safety of the chinatown buses or on alternative ways to travel in a cost efficient way please tell me.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:43 pm: Edit

I think you would find amtrak a lot more convenient. If you don't get a reserved seat and get a student card it may be as inexpensive as what you are quoting. They have a website and a toll free number.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:44 pm: Edit

My Ss and their dad have traveled on the Chinatown bus several times. We did once see a bus pulled aside by the police on the highway for speeding, I suppose. They're as safe to travel in as Greyhound. If there are struggles with competitors, then their future might not be safe; but that is a different issue. I did not know about Asian mobs. Will have to look into that.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:46 pm: Edit


The Chinatown bus costs $10 one way Boston-NYC and runs every hour. No way that Amtrak can match these fares and schedule.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:54 pm: Edit

Amtrak is not that cheap. I know there is a Chinatown bus in DC that goes to NYC, not sure of the cost (I hear it's very cheap). A line does form every Friday when it leaves.

Also, Southwest Airlines now serves Philly, and flights to DC are only $29 (plus taxes) on sale.

By Bern700 (Bern700) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:59 pm: Edit

Yeah I looked up Amtrak and a round trip from say NYC-BOS costs about $110 WITH STUDENT DISCOUNT. While the Chinatown bus costs $35. I'm just concerned about the safety of those buses. I read an article about them saying that a few competing mobs run their own lines and now they are attacking each other. Supposedly the mob boss of one of these mobs was found dead and some of the buses have been burned at night.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:04 pm: Edit


Wow. My S went to a concert in NYC about two weeks ago on Fungwah. No problem. But I'll definitely keep my eyes open. Thanks for the heads up.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:13 pm: Edit

Does any other train do that route? I do hear friends' offspring bragging about very low fares travelling the NE corridor if they go thru NYC with some connections, but I can't find them on-line either. Sorry.

By Bern700 (Bern700) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:24 pm: Edit

Chinatown bus war fuels probe (June 16, 2003)

De Jian Chen was chased down and riddled with bullets last month, dying in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, around the corner from where Chinese immigrant workers, college students and tourists board idling buses with exotic names like Dragon Coach, Lotus Tours and Fung Wah.
De Jian Chen was a player in Chinatown's lucrative and violent discount bus wars.

Some 250 coach buses and vans ferry people in and out of Chinatown daily, taking gamblers to Atlantic City and commuters from Chinatown to Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. But the most profitable runs are to other East Coast Chinatowns.

Fares range from $12 to $35, which in some cases is nearly half the cost charged by established bus companies. Authorities estimate the New York to Philadelphia route alone can bring a Chinatown business more than $1 million a year.

With such profits, the legitimate businesses may have drawn the tentacles of organized crime - the Chinatown gangsters who prey on fellow immigrants.

The Manhattan district attorney's office is working to build a racketeering case, law enforcement sources said.

"We believe there are links to Asian organized crime," said a law enforcement source. "We are aware of different incidents of vandalism and extortion involving some bus companies."

Years of violence

The killing of De Jian Chen, 27, on Market St. at 9 p.m. on May 9 was the culmination of years of violence surrounding the business, sources said. Investigators said he was an enforcer for a ruthless extortionist, while his business partner said he was a family man and a good friend.

The homicide is unsolved and the motive still mysterious - and that sends a chill through the bus companies.

"We are scared, we might be the next targets," said Jack Ho, De Jian Chen's partner at Today Travel.

Several days after the slaying, one of his drivers was assaulted in Washington at the end of a trip, Ho said. As they beat him, the attackers said, "If we want you to run the buses you run the buses, if we don't want you to run the buses you don't," according to Ho. He said the driver filed a complaint with Washington police.

On Forsyth St. at East Broadway, hard by the Manhattan Bridge, the rivalry among bus companies appears to be nothing more than spirited competition.

Ticket sellers with schedules in Chinese sit under umbrella stands at the bus stop. Hawkers vie for customers and insult competitors as coach buses squeeze in and out of three spots at the populous intersection.

But it was precisely this colorful scene, as well as cheap fares, that increasingly attracted English-speaking passengers to buses that had been shuttling Chinese restaurant workers among the Chinatowns in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Richmond and Atlanta.

The competition grew more aggressive, with everything from undercutting fares to stealing a Web site, and some companies employed strong-arm tactics, authorities said. In offices above the sidewalks is a tangle of companies with changing names and owners.

"These companies merge, unmerge. ... They were whacking people over the head with pipes, slashing tires, breaking windows," said one investigator. "None of these [incidents] were making the police blotter, because the people don't want to report it."

Then, on the morning of May 26, 2002, the feuding escalated to a new height of viciousness.

De Jian Chen, driving a vehicle for the Farewell bus company, was at the Forsyth St. stop and allegedly accelerated in reverse, smashing his vehicle into a New Century bus, pinning New Century owner Lun Dong Chen between the buses, according to the criminal complaint.

Witnesses said De Jian Chen backed up three times. Lun Dong Chen suffered a fractured pelvis, internal bleeding and other severe injuries, according to the complaint.

De Jian Chen was charged with assault, menacing and reckless endangerment. The case was still pending when he was killed.

Enforcing his will

Police sources said De Jian Chen acted as an enforcer, making sure parking spaces were available to his company's buses. But there was apparently another reason for the assault on Lun Dong Chen, sources said.

"It all started with a New York to Philly van company; it was frequented by gangster boys from the Fukien Flying Dragons - De Jian ran with them," said an investigator. "That is the first time law enforcement got involved."

Lun Dong Chen was a witness in a federal extortion case against an associate of De Jian Chen, a reputed member of the Flying Dragons named Xiang Chen. In 2000, Xiang Chen and other defendants stabbed and beat Lun Dong Chen and other employees of the Min Yun van service, which ran between Chinatowns in New York and Philadelphia.

That forced Min Yun out of business.

Xiang Chen, 24, of Queens, was arrested in March 2002 for extortion and on separate federal charges of robberies in Chinatown in which he used a machine gun.

Despite his injuries, Lun Dong Chen testified in Manhattan Federal Court during the extortion trial last year, and Xiang Chen was convicted. In March, he was sentenced to 70 months in prison.

Two weeks ago, Xiang Chen was convicted in the armed robberies. He faces up to 100 years in prison.

Meanwhile, De Jian Chen had been working for Dragon Coach, a company formed in August 2000 by Edward Ho. But three months ago, De Jian Chen and Ho's son, Jack, became partners and struck out on their own, forming another but similarly named company - Dragoncoach USA.

"Chen was the bus scheduler, the primary contact with the Web site [where tickets were sold], and he was able to capture that Web site for the new company," said Edward Ho's lawyer, Laurence Olive. As a result, Dragon Coach's business suffered drastically, Olive said.

Edward Ho filed suit to stop his son and De Jian Chen from using the name. Now the breakaway company is called Today Travel but some of the signs still read Dragoncoach USA.

Olive said detectives investigating De Jian Chen's murder have interviewed Edward Ho.

At Today Travel, Jack Ho, 26, sat at a desk behind a metal security gate eying a video surveillance camera. "It's frightening," he said.

'We won't let it go'

Asked whether he thought his partner was killed in retaliation for the alleged assault, Ho said, "Maybe, we don't know."

But he said De Jian Chen was not associated with Xiang Chen or criminal elements. The slain man left a wife and 1-year-old daughter, and investigators said his wife described him as a good provider and father who worked hard and did not drink.

"We won't let it go, we'll make sure the police follow up," Ho said. "We're walking carefully, driving carefully, watching our backs."

He said the company has hired a private investigator and is contributing with the Fukienese Association to add $18,000 to the $2,000 reward money offered by the city to find the killer.

Capt. James McCarthy, commander of Chinatown's 5th Precinct, said cops formed a task force a year ago to deal with 100 companies moving buses and vans through the congested area.

Working with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the Department of Transportation and the Manhattan Traffic Task Force, they confiscated 20 buses for safety violations. They stopped vehicles from taking layovers on Forsyth St., established pickup points and held meetings with the major companies.

Things had quieted down, and then De Jian Chen was killed, the only murder in the precinct in 18 months. McCarthy said that not one complaint related to the buses has been generated since the slaying.

One day last week, Forsyth St. and East Broadway was almost serene as people boarded the noon bus to Philadelphia.

But some law enforcement sources doubt that De Jian Chen's death will end the violence.

"Someone will take his place, because there is a lot of money to be made," said one investigator.

By Bern700 (Bern700) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:28 pm: Edit

U.S. National - AFP

Chinatown bus wars take a deadly turn

Tue Feb 24,10:44 AM ET

NEW YORK (AFP) - New York's Chinatown, once the scene of brutal feuds between gangs like the Flying Dragons and Ghost Shadows, is witnessing a new turf war that police are blaming for up to three unsolved murders.

The unlikely protagonists are the owners and operators of rival bus services that offer discount tickets to cities like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.

Violence linked to the dispute has reached such a level that police launched a surprise raid last week, seizing 16 buses from various bargain line operators.

While the raid was ostensibly to check for safety violations, many in the close-knit Chinatown community took it as a clear warning that official patience with the feuding was wearing extremely thin.

"There is an ongoing dispute concerning bus routes," acknowledged Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

"There was some violence attended to it last week -- the stabbing of a bus driver and another individual on East Broadway," Kelly said. "We're looking for information anyone might have about what's going on."

Bad blood first turned into spilled blood in May last year, when two operators of the Dragon Coach USA company were driving through Chinatown in lower Manhattan.

Another car drew alongside and gunmen opened fire. Chen Dejian, the company's financial affairs officer, tried to escape but was chased on foot and shot dead.

Chen had been involved in an incident the previous year, when he backed a vehicle into the manager of a rival bus outfit, New Century, breaking his pelvis.

In the wake of Chen's shooting, two New Century buses were torched and a headless torso, which has yet to be formally linked to the turf war, turned up nearby.

In October, a man who allegedly tried to extort a bus company owner was stabbed to death, and police believe the bus wars were also behind a shootout in January, when two men opened fire outside the Super Taste House restaurant with an AK-47 assault rifle and a handgun, killing a man in his 30s.

The discount bus companies have been around for more than a decade, touting their cut price rides -- just 10 dollars to Boston -- at an unofficial depot under the Manhattan Bridge.

Initially, the clientele was almost exclusively Chinese, and it was the discovery of the service by non-Chinese about two years ago that transformed a sideline business into a serious money earner.

With competition for passengers intensifying, a police task force report cited by the New York Daily News made it clear that intimidation had become a common tool.

"Strong-arm tactics are used and reprisals with the vandalism of each other's buses," the report said. "At times, scare tactics and physical beatings are even used upon customers to ensure that they do not utilize competitors' services."

Most of the bus owners and operators are relatively newly arrived immigrants from China's Fujian province.

According to Robin Mui, a journalist with the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily here, the violence stems from a desire to protect their foothold in what is a lucrative alternative to the traditional Chinatown restaurant and garment industries.

"Unfortunately it's getting out of hand," Mui said. "The police are right to put the pressure on, otherwise it could become a total disaster.

"That AK-47 shooting happened in the middle of the night ... about 40 shots. Imagine if it happened on a crowded street on a crowded day -- you'd be looking at a war zone," he said.

Leaders of Chinatown's Fujianese community, like Steven Wong, have tried to negotiate between the bus owners who come from different villages in Fujian and are often reluctant to work together.

"We've held some talks, but the results are usually short term," Wong said. "They behave for a little while, but then it starts again. They're like little kids. It's a new business and they didn't get used to it yet."

Following the police raid, which he described as a "wake-up call," Wong said he had called another round table meeting.

"I'm trying to tell them that if they can't work it out between themselves, we will have no option but to talk to the community board and suggest they shut down everything."

Unlike the neighbouring district of Little Italy, Chinatown has weathered the recent gentrification of lower Manhattan to retain its strong ethnic identity.

In the 1970s and 80s, gang culture was endemic with virtually every small business forced to pay protection money or move out.

Chinatown still has a criminal underworld, but its pervasive influence has dwindled considerably since a federal crackdown that began in the mid-1980s put most of the gang leaders behind bars

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:07 pm: Edit

Since I recently sent my son by Amtrak from DC to Boston for $79, I will point out that the train fares, like the plane fares, vary according to day and time of travel. (The Acela costs a lot more--and goes a lot faster.)

If you are thinking about a week of east coast travel during break, Amtrak often offers a regional train pass that is good for a limited amount of time, like the Eurailpass.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:39 pm: Edit

Thanks, Bern. I'll show these articles to my S. At least Fungwah does not seem to have been involved in this mayhem! But it's scary.

By Momsdream (Momsdream) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:40 pm: Edit

Many people in Philly will take SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) Regional Rail lines to Trenton (I think it's Trenton) and then switch to New Jersey Transit to get into Penn Station. I'll have to check th details, as I always prefer to drive. I think the total rount trip cost is something like $10...that's Philly to NYC....not sure of the cheapest way to get to BOS. But, USAIR does now have GoFares tp Boston...I think it's $49 r/t to Boston and $29 r/t to Providence, RI from Philly.

Are you coming to Philly to attend Penn?

By Momsdream (Momsdream) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:42 pm: Edit

This Chinatown Bus thing is WILD! I have never heard of this.

By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:44 pm: Edit

Hi Bern,

To elaborate on what Momsdream said..

NYC to Philadelphia it to take the NJ transit Northeast Corridor train fro Penn Station, NYC to Trenton. From Trenton , take the SEPTA to 30th street station. It should cost approximately $20 each way for both trains (cheaper than amtrack which is $50 each way) Hey, if you have friends at Princeton, or Rutgers you can get off at and see them along the way

By Bern700 (Bern700) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 06:40 pm: Edit

Thanks guys!!!

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 07:23 pm: Edit

I thought I already posted this...but I guess I didn't. Try It's another Chinatown to Chinatown bus service from Boston to NYC with a stop in Hartford. It's $15 each way. There was an article about it in the Hartford Courant last fall and it reportedly is quite nice...not quite what the other services are described as being. Just a thought. It does not go to Phili.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 07:49 pm: Edit


Greyhound has dropped its price to $15 on the NYC-Boston route in order to compete with the Chinatown bus. I don't know what it is like for Philly. My S has found that the bus can be faster than Amtrak, at least to NYC.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 07:57 pm: Edit

Just to give a sense of what competition has wrought: it's actually cheaper to go Boston NYC (212 miles) than to go Boston to Middletown, CT (120 miles) with a transfer in Hartford. Its $10-15 regular vs. $24 cheap rate.

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