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As a frequent commuter from New York to Philadelphia and back, I have had the privilege of traveling cheap thanks to the Chinatown buses, which run between most of the major cities along the East Coast, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia and DC, all the way down to Atlanta. The two main companies available are Apex and New Century and both run out of 88th East Broadway in Manhattan, and Market East in Philly. Both are priced at $20 round-trip. The cheap price is a motivator for most people who don’t mind traveling cheap at the expense of other things (such as safety and cleanliness), and I marvel how I too fall prey to the ignoring of such warning signs.
Any entrepreneurial businessman would be inclined to launch their own competitive business alongside these Chinatown buses and with a few things changes, is guaranteed to bring in the riches. Clearly there isn’t the need to resort to push and shove online by buying $2.50 tickets months in advance, because where the appeal lies in the Chinatown buses is the ability to jump on at the last moment. Besides, with gas prices as they are, it would be hard to imagine that model succeeding without large amount of capital. So, here’s what I propose for a recipe of success, with little more than what the Chinatown buses already offer:
A sweep of the bus’s interior and an occasional wash-down of the exterior could make the world of difference.
There’s nothing more that ticks me off than to hear a bus driver speak to himself. Not to mention the fact that he has some 30 lives literally in his hands.
The drivers I’ve met (except for one) always have an air of condescension about them, responding to queries of the bus’s arrival location not with words but with an apathetic shrug or minor nod of the head. If I speak, I’d like to get a verbal response.
The counter-intuitive thing about being on time is that though the bus driver might lose out of $10 if he drives away from a potential customer he might pick up with a delay of 10 minutes, he risks losing potential repeat customers already on the bus and frustrated at the delay. On the other hand, the latecomer realizes that a) the bus is actually prompt and follows a schedule and b) it is necessary to be on time — both positive aspects that really don’t jeopardize the actual business.
I guess it all boils down to etiquette and social mannerisms, which I find to be considerably lacking in the Chinatown bus business. It’s sad, though, because a simple gesture can make the world of a difference. The one time I was actually not grumpy when I came off of the bus was with a driver who spoke English and who gave a small introductory speech about how it was nice to have everyone on the bus and that he would make one stop at the Chambers Street subway station but because of curbside drop-off regulations it had to be a very brief stop at that. Just that.
But it was a good ride at that.