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The Chinatown bus phenomenon has fascinated me ever since it originated a decade ago. It stared as a small van service to help Chinese immigrants reach jobs outside of New York City. It has since grown into a fleet of full-sized buses, owned by several companies run by independent operators, that service major East Coast cities from Boston to Washington, D.C. Very popular among not only immigrants, but also young Americans looking for cheap travel, the Chinatown bus lines have recently forced transportation giant Greyhound to lower its fares. But the Chinatown fare is still less than any major bus carrier and much less than an Amtrak ticket. One-way between New York and D.C. is a low $15.00. Tickets can be purchased online, and each of the carriers has an office in the city it services. One carrier reports that on busy days, it might sell more than a thousand tickets.

Most of the Chinatown buses pick up their riders from designated street corners, thus avoiding the fees of maintaining large private terminals. Competition among the Chinatown bus lines has been fierce, and sometimes ugly. Departing and arriving on-schedule, comfort, and other amenities are not guaranteed for those who travel on these buses. Still, the promise of more money to spend in New York City, and not on transportation to get there, was enough to convert me to a regular Chinatown bus traveler. I assembled this series of photographs to document a recent Chinatown bus journey that began at corner of East Broadway and Division Street in Lower Manhattan, and concluded at the corner of 6th and I streets in D.C.

--Elijah Mirochnik