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Thread: The Chinatown Bus as model for entrepreneurship

  1. #1
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    The Chinatown Bus as model for entrepreneurship

    Hi guys,

    I recently wrote this post on my website: http://flushingexceptionalism.com/th...ollar-bus.html

    It's about the sudden appearance of commuter buses in my neighborhood that shuttled people from Flushing, Queens to Chinatown, Manhattan for one dollar. I wrote a bit about the fallout from the appearance of the buses, and then about the history of the Chinatown Bus in general. One of the main points I tried to make is that the Chinatown Bus spawned a big, burgeoning industry without the aid of technology, high education, or skilled labor. Instead, it all depended on the fact that the Chinatown community was tight-knit and devoted to the service because they had no other alternative. I extrapolated from that the idea that what truly makes successful businesses (and neighborhoods) is the well-being and/or closeness of the niche community that supports it. Facebook and Twitter is successful not so much because of high tech and social innovation, but because their target audience (college kids, celebrities, etc.) already enjoy certain advantages and are thus well-positioned to support them.

    What do you guys think about this? I live in Flushing, so I'm steeped in it, and I've always thought that the kind of entrepreneurship here have been overlooked because this is not a well-educated or high-tech or hip neighborhood, and the successes are often just attributed to the ineffable character of immigrants. What do you guys think about the immigrant entrepreneurship model and its relevance for working-class Americans across the country?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally posted by JM1998 View post
    Hi guys,

    I recently wrote this post on my website: http://flushingexceptionalism.com/th...ollar-bus.html

    It's about the sudden appearance of commuter buses in my neighborhood that shuttled people from Flushing, Queens to Chinatown, Manhattan for one dollar. I wrote a bit about the fallout from the appearance of the buses, and then about the history of the Chinatown Bus in general. One of the main points I tried to make is that the Chinatown Bus spawned a big, burgeoning industry without the aid of technology, high education, or skilled labor. Instead, it all depended on the fact that the Chinatown community was tight-knit and devoted to the service because they had no other alternative. I extrapolated from that the idea that what truly makes successful businesses (and neighborhoods) is the well-being and/or closeness of the niche community that supports it. Facebook and Twitter is successful not so much because of high tech and social innovation, but because their target audience (college kids, celebrities, etc.) already enjoy certain advantages and are thus well-positioned to support them.

    What do you guys think about this? I live in Flushing, so I'm steeped in it, and I've always thought that the kind of entrepreneurship here have been overlooked because this is not a well-educated or high-tech or hip neighborhood, and the successes are often just attributed to the ineffable character of immigrants. What do you guys think about the immigrant entrepreneurship model and its relevance for working-class Americans across the country?

    I like the general concept, but the Chinatown bus isn't a good example. If you want a model for an irresponsible, poorly run company that is always on the news because of some fiery crash that kills dozens of people somewhere on I-95, then yes the Chinatown Buses are a way to go. A model for entrepreneurship? Look elsewhere. Even though they're not run by immigrants, what about MegaBus? If you want something that is often run by immigrants, what about the jitneys in the New York / New Jersey area?

  3. #3
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    Thanks for replying!

    I use the Chinatown Bus as an example for entrepreneurship instead of MegaBus because the established players in the interstate bus industry are more protective than innovative. In fact, Peter Pan and Greyhound lobbied hard against curbside buses (the Chinatown model) for years before turning around and forming curbside bus lines of their own. The BoltBus here on the East Coast, for example, is a joint venture between Greyhound and Peter Pan. Meanwhile, a lot of the jitney services in NY/NJ you mentioned happen to be precursors or subsidiaries of the Chinatown Buses. Fung Wah Transportation Company, probably the most well-known Chinatown Bus, started off as a jitney service between Manhattan and Brooklyn. They are very much related.

    That aside though, I also wanted to express the idea that the Chinatown Bus has been given an unfair rap as irresponsible, poorly run, and dangerous. Of course there are bad bus companies, but there are good ones as well. Regulations are supposed to separate one from the other. The fact is, established players like Greyhound and MegaBus just have much better PR, and there is the tendency for some people to think of the "Chinatown Bus" as a singular entity, as a kind of derogatory catch-all designation for buses of questionable morals. But if you Google the accident history of MegaBus and Greyhound, you'll find the same kind of track record -- deaths, driver fatigue, driver inebriation. It's a complicated story, I think.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    My brother recently moved out to Pittsburgh and he refuses to take Megabus even though the trip is an hour quicker, cheaper and with more departures than Amtrak - and it's solely because of their safety record.

    It's interesting that most of the Chinatown operators have been shut down. It's been great for Megabus, BoltBus, SEPTA and NJTransit but I wonder how they're going to come back into the market. There's a huge demand there that really isn't being met right now. The remaining routes to NYC and DC are packed.

    I also wonder if the government didn't crack down on the Chinatown operators because of their repeated attacks on each other more so than for their safety record.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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