NEW YORK—Following a horrific bus crash that killed 15 passengers on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer joined Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez on Monday to call upon the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to conduct a thorough investigation on the safety regulations for the low-fare tour bus industry to ensure that tragedies like last Saturday’s do not happen again.
Around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, a World Wide Tours discount bus en route from Connecticut Mohegan Sun Casino to Chinatown crashed into a metal traffic pole in the Bronx, killing 15 passengers, and injuring 17 others.
“It is too early to talk definitively about what happened,” but “what we do know is that the bus company, World Wide Tours, running this trip has a history of citations for safety violations in several states,” said Schumer.
The company had been cited five times for fatigue driving and was put on alert status by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA is the federal agency with jurisdiction over low-budget tour bus companies. World Wide Tours is not isolated. Other local tour bus companies have alarming safety records.
“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency’s regulation of this industry leaves much to be desired,” said Schumer, referring to his endeavor in 2005 to request FMCSA to put safety measures in place by increasing surprised inspections, hiring more inspectors, and providing greater disclosure of safety rankings for customers.
In 2005, a Boston-NYC tour bus burst into flames on the highway in Connecticut, and in September 2006, a low-fare tour bus heading to New York crashed, injuring three passengers as the bus rolled off an exit ramp in Massachusetts.
In May 2007, a similar tour bus crashed on a trip from New York to Chicago, killing two people on board and, in June 2010, the driver of a bus heading from Chinatown to Atlantic City was ejected and run over when the bus crashed.
There have been allegations about these bus drivers made to work long hours, getting tired when driving, and being put under such pressure that they have to speed to make their daily trip, Schumer said.
Velazquez expressed heartfelt concern “for the families of the victims, those who are still struggling and trying to survive these terrible tragedies,” and “to the driver and his family.”
Due to increasing transportation costs, low-cost tour bus companies have grown significantly in recent years, but the regulations have not kept pace with the expansion of the industry, stated Velazquez.
She made it clear that it is not about getting rid of these low-budget bus tour companies or putting them out of business.
“This is about human life. This is about avoiding another tragedy,” said Velazquez, who wanted to ensure that people have “this option in a safe and reliable manner.”
“Millions of tourists and commuters travel into and out of New York City everyday due to public demand for cheap transportation,” noted Velazquez.
Schumer and Velazquez called upon the NTSB to use its oversight authority to expand their investigations to the entire low-cost inter-city bus operators industry and to propose regulations to the Department of Transportation.
“We have to ensure that we do everything within our power to protect human life so that tragedies like Saturday’s do not happen again,” said Velazquez.
Present at the event was Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who reiterated a similar stance. “This is a wake-up call that we have to do whatever we can to make sure this kind of tragedy does not happen ever, ever again.”
“This is affordable transportation for many communities throughout New York City. But, it has to be safe. We demand a full investigation and will call on the federal government to make sure that they regulate this industry and that passengers are safe,” said Chin.