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Long-Distance Love Commutes Hit Roadblock With Fung Wah Shutdown

CHINATOWN — Nikayla Scott's love commute may have hit a roadblock.

Scott, 22, a Boston resident, is one of many budget-conscious travelers dismayed by the federal government's permanent shutdown of the Fung Wah bus company — with $15 tickets between Beantown and her boyfriend's home in New York, her love life relies on it.

"Oh my goodness that would be annoying because we are so used to seeing each other all the time," said Scott, who added that she and her boyfriend try to spend every weekend together. "It sure would make it harder to see each other."

Last week, as part of a continuing crackdown on the safety of the low-cost bus industry, the federal Department of Transportation permanently revoked the license of the Chinatown-based pioneer of cheap bus routes.

The company had denied the DOT access to some of its safety records after inspectors found cracks in the frames of 21 of Fung Wah's 28 buses last Saturday.

With Fung Wah gone, there is now only one reliably inexpensive option in Chinatown — Lucky Star, which picks up at 55 Chrystie St., around the corner from Fung Wah's 139 Canal St. stop.

Many other companies still run buses between New York and Boston, but some, like Greyhound, are more expensive at about $35 for a one-way ticket. Others, like Megabus and BoltBus, only offer cheap tickets to those who reserve spots far in advance.

"I have been through a hell of a bus ride to get there," said Alison, 30, who commuted most weekends for a year to see her now-fiance in Boston. "But knowing I got to see him at the end of it made it all worth it — isn't that cheesy?"

Alison, an education industry worker who did not give her last name, said she made most of her trips on Fung Wah, because she could jump on the next bus out of town without breaking the bank.

"It would have been a lot more stressful had I not had the convenience of these buses," she said.

Several frequent travelers said they expect longer lines for Lucky Star now that Fung Wah has been shut down, and they worried the days of cheap, last-minute trips were over. Fung Wah ran about 25 trips to Boston each day.

"You could just turn up, buy a ticket and get on the next bus," said Dimira, a student from Boston who regularly visits her boyfriend in New York. "I am now going to have to plan more in advance."

Dimira, who did not give her last name, took her first trip with Lucky Star after the Fung Wah shutdown this week.

"There are a lot more people on Lucky Star so it's going to be hard to decide at the last moment," said Pierre Lemarchand, a New York City composer with a girlfriend in Boston for the past two years.

Lemarchand, who rode Fung Wah buses for the past decade, said the Lucky Star bus service is already busy with spillover customers.

"Although this sounds cliché, it really is the end of an era," he said.

To avoid the crush of passengers on many Chinatown buses, 25-year-old Matt Chevy plays the gentleman by buying his New York City girlfriend a plane ticket to visit him in Boston. 

But whenever he came to New York City, he always rode Fung Wah before the shutdown.

"You ride the thing and you hear this 'click clack' all the time," Chevy said.

Once he even helped a bus driver fix a belt in a broken engine midway to Boston, he said.

"I'm surprised [Fung Wah] lasted this long."