State officials are trying to put the Fung Wah bus company out of business by preventing the company from finding a location from which to operate, a Fung Wah consultant charged.
Fung Wah, a cut-rate bus line with a history of safety violations, lost its berth at South Station after it was shut down by federal regulators in 2013. Regaining it was the subject of a meeting between the consultant, Barry Lewis, chief executive United States Transit Funding in Cherokee, Iowa, and officials from the Department of Public Utilities, which regulates bus lines, and the MBTA, which runs South Station.
Lewis complained that state officials were dismissive. The officials said the MBTA was dealing with the fallout of a disastrous winter and did not have time to deal with Fung Wah’s requests, Lewis said. A regulator with the Department of Public Utilities said the company’s commitment to safety “doesn’t matter” because “the owner of the company doesn’t understand it,” Lewis alleged.
State officials denied the accusations. Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said Lewis agreed to explore alternatives and approach Boston City Hall about finding a pick-up and drop-off location. Peter Lorenz, a DPU spokesman, declined to discuss the meeting on the record.
Fung Wah, which operated between South Station and New York’s Chinatown, pioneered low-cost bus service between the two cities. Six months ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave it permission to resume service on a trial basis. But local officials have yet to give the company permission to pick up and drop off passengers.
Boston does not allow the curbside service that is permitted in New York.
Lewis said company officials told him they had to find a way forward by the end of May or shut down for good. Lewis said the company is losing about $50,000 a month. Fung Wah’s owner, Pei Lin Liang, put the figure around $100,000 in a recent interview with the World Journal, a Chinese-language publication.
The owner, who did not respond to requests for comment, told the World Journal that his company “will not live to see tomorrow” if it can’t return to South Station.
Berths at the South Station Bus Terminal are fully leased, according to the MBTA, and won’t go out for bid again until 2019. Pesaturo said the transit authority would consider letting Fung Wah operate from other locations, such as Riverside in Newton, but the company has not inquired about them.
Lewis said he has tried to engage MBTA officials, but they have not returned his calls.
The company said that it has spent millions of dollars on new buses, safety and monitoring systems, staffing, and other preparations for a return to the road, according to a briefing book that it provided to Massachusetts officials.