Emergent Curbside Intercity Bus Industry: Chinatown and Beyond

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - history, organisation - competition, organisation - regulation, mode - bus


Transportation economics, Transport economics, Regulation, Policy making, Northeastern United States, Motor bus transportation, Level of service, Intercity bus transportation, Intercity bus lines, History, Economics, Curbside intercity bus service, Competition, Chinatown (New York, New York), Bus transportation


The first study of the emerging curbside intercity bus industry, commonly called the Chinatown bus, is presented. The study of this relatively unknown industry addresses three research questions. First, why and how did the intercity curbside bus industry develop? Second, what services are operated by the curbside carriers and how do these services compare with competing travel options? Finally, how do the economics of operating curbside buses differ from those of traditional bus companies? The research speaks to policy questions about the appropriate role of regulation in transportation and the competition between private and public transportation providers. The findings indicate that in the past 10 years, curbside buses have grown to become an important transportation provider in the Northeast Corridor: more than 2,500 low-fare bus trips per week connect New York City to Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Boston, Massachusetts. More than 100 buses depart each week to more than 30 other cities, traveling as far as Atlanta, Georgia, and Toronto, Canada. Traditional bus companies, such as Greyhound Lines and Peter Pan, have begun their own curbside intercity bus services either to mitigate the competition from new companies or because they recognize the competitive advantages of curbside operations. It is found that curbside bus operations offer significant cost savings compared with traditional bus services by lowering labor costs and avoiding terminal fees, although at the cost of limited accessibility for disabled passengers, reduced passenger safety, and other social concerns.