Lucky Star’s buses broke down more than 80 times in the past year as they traveled between Boston and New York, causing passengers to disembark along the highway at times. Inspections last month found 69 violations on six coaches, including bad brakes, windshield and emergency exit defects, and rotted floors.
One vehicle was dispatched with a 4-by-2-foot hole in the bottom.
These are among the reasons cited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for shutting down the Boston-based bus company on Wednesday, just three months after ordering its fellow Chinatown carrier, Fung Wah, to cease operations. The agency, which regulates interstate bus travel, said Lucky Star didn’t properly maintain its buses, failed to monitor drivers for drug and alcohol use, and didn’t track their hours behind the wheel.
Customers who already purchased tickets will receive a refund, according to the company’s website. The shutdown order will remain in effect until Lucky Star addresses the safety issues, according to the federal agency. Unlike Fung Wah, Lucky Star’s licensing agreement at South Station has not been terminated.
“It happened so suddenly, I’m shocked,” said Lucky Star owner Edward Leung. Leung declined to comment further, referring questions to his lawyer, who could not be reached.
Like the other discount carriers traveling between Boston and New York, Lucky Star charged around $15 each way, although prices went up to $25 or more after Fung Wah went out of business.
In some cases, said Joseph Mokrisky, a transportation compliance consultant in Stoughton, companies are able to charge so little because they cut corners on safety.
“You can’t have discounted fares in the place of safety,” he said. “If we had planes that we were crashing at the rate of passenger carriers, people would be up in arms.”
Lucky Star has only had one crash in the past two years, and no injuries were reported, according to federal data.
But the carrier, which operated 20 buses that run between Boston and New York every half hour, averaged 13 violations per bus over the past three years, the highest rate among bus lines that transport passengers between South Station and New York.
Lucky Star also exceeded the federal threshhold for unsafe driving, with citations for improper lane changes, failure to wear a seat belt, and speeding. Investigators looking at a sample of data found that drivers exceeded the speed limit 40 out of 44 times.
The action against Lucky Star is part of the carrier safety administration’s national crackdown on unsafe bus companies. Lucky Star, which was rated “satisfactory” on the agency’s website, had not had a full safety review in four years.
The federal agency received greater authority to shut down bus and trucking companies in a transportation law enacted last year. It has revoked the operating authority of 20 bus companies this year, including 13 since April 1, when it deployed 50 safety investigators as part of “Operation Quick Strike.”
With Fung Wah and Lucky Star out of service, the only way to get from Boston directly to New York’s Chinatown is on Yo Bus, which started operating in Boston a few weeks after Fung Wah was shuttered.
Yo, which also serves Philadelphia’s Chinatown, is a division of Greyhound Lines and affiliated with Springfield-based Peter Ban Bus Lines. The two carriers collaborate on Boston-New York service and jointly operate BoltBus, which also serves the route.
Only one of the five remaining Boston-New York carriers at South Station, Megabus.com, is not associated with Greyhound.
The double-decker carrier said it started seeing an increase in bookings on Wednesday night and plans to put additional single- and double-decker buses on the route to accommodate the increased volume.