Feds Shut Down 26 Budget Bus Firms

The Department of Transportation has shut down 26 bus companies servicing the East Coast corridor because of public safety concerns.  The crackdown targets a ticket seller, nine operating companies, 13 previously shutdown companies and three companies applying for approval.

"These aggressive enforcement actions against unsafe bus companies send a clear signal: If you put passengers' safety at risk, we will shut you down," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement released today. "Safety is and will always be our highest priority."

Two of the largest budget bus operators, Bolt Bus and Megabus, were not included in today's announcement.

The enforcement action is the result of a year-long investigation by the department, which found that many bus drivers operated buses without a license, failed to pass a alcohol-drug test and were working strenuous hours.

Bus crashes were responsible for multiple deaths last year.   A fully packed double-decker bus can carry up to 80 passengers.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found similar violations in a tour bus crash that killed 15 in the Bronx last year.  In that case, the driver was found to have fallen asleep at the wheel.  The company, World Wide Travel of Greater New York, was shut down after the accident by the NTSB.

"We may do more shut-downs in the future," LaHood said on Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP this morning.

[ Here's the list of affected companies.]

Although Megabus is not listed, four of its passengers were killed in 2010 in a New York double-decker bus headed for Toronto. The bus was clipped from above as it drove through an underpass.  The driver was recently acquitted of homicide charges.

The DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also published a new rule in April that prevents banned bus companies from restarting their businesses under a new name in an affiliated company. The administration has also enacted new rules to prevent commercial motor vehicle operators from texting and making calls while on the road.

Congress is considering new legislation that would strengthen the agency's ability to shut down resurgent bus companies that establish under a new name.

Budget bus companies are an inexpensive way for people to travel the country. Bus tickets from Chinatown in Washington, D.C., to New York City  generally run $15 one-way but are advertised as low as $1.

Airfare and train fare can cost a couple hundred dollars.