Wednesday, March 26, 2008

End of a Golden Era

Today sadly ends a golden era for private enterprise in cities. Eastern Travel and Tours is enjoying its last day at the peak of a golden wave. Ever since 1998, a bubble was forming. In recent years, some companies have been, again, riding the wave of prosperity, but it is Eastern that had the upper hand. What am I referring to?
The so-called Chinatown buses. Fung Wah started in 1998, catering to the Chinese community, shuttling passengers for $10 between New York and Boston. Other companies soon followed for the same intention, within 5 years forming a network on the East Coast. Eastern took the lead in catering to the "wider population". Low Fares, Friendly People, and by far, Quicker Service and Better Schedules characterize Eastern, as well as others, against the government-subsidized Greyhound.
The bubble was bound to burst. New start-ups such as Tony Coach (blast to the past- has priorities mixed up- chooses quantity over quality) and the tasteless DC2NY, in the past year, proved that the clientèle was a bottomless well. Well, Greyhound wanted to be the bully that scattered the people. Their new service, Boltbus, will be a Trojan Horse. The system, starting tomorrow, will run just like a striving company, running buses from the street corner. But it's Greyhound. The government is sponsoring this non-capitalist act that is on the verge of offending Anti-Trust laws meant to protect the smaller providers. If they were only entering the market, it would not sting. However, they are using their bottomless cesspool of cash to push private enterprise into bankrupcy, or shutting down. Offering tickets that start at $1, range up through the $7 and $10 range and practically capping at $15, someone without a strong conscience will be lured by the outer beauty of the price deal.
Who knows what will happen tomorrow with my friends at Eastern? What do they have up their sleeve? They must not fail, and most likely will not. Due to the drain of up to 400 passengers each way per day, if all comes to worst, several companies will shut down, (Tony and DC2NY top my list right now) and Eastern, the most "American Apple Pie" of the companies will have to make noticeable cuts to service. The older underdogs, such as New Century, MVP/Apex Bus and Today's Bus, will tweak schedules and tactics to recenter on the Chinese community. Maybe there is some law that Greyhound is violating in creating BoltBus. We can hope.
At least Eastern provides a quicker trip!
>Boltbus will then take their tornado to the NY-Boston route. They might have more trouble there, due to Fung Wah as well as Lucky Star each providing near-hourly service between the two towns. Later on that.

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