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The price of a passenger ticket from Portland to San Francisco, six hundred miles, was $37.50, over six cents a mile. And the people were robbed of their time as well as of their money. “ The S. P. trains have no competitors and hence pay little regard to speed; even express trains take things easy, and one wonders what the local service is like.” Los Angeles is some four hundred miles south of San Francisco. The S. P. trains, running at about the rate of seventeen miles an hour, take twenty-four hours to cover this distance, as against eight or nine hours for a similar service in the East. This in 1892. To-day the ton-mile, passenger-mile taxes levied by the king of California upon his subjects seem to be at a point altogether beyond “what the traffic will bear.” The people are going back to horse teams for the movement of their produce. The Railway Gazette of May 15, 1896, says that a large cargo of wool was recently carried from Fresno to San Francisco, two hundred miles, by wagon. The teamster was eight days on the way with his six-horse team, and yet he saved twenty-five per cent. on the rates charged by the S. P. Railroad. He took a large load of freight on his return trip.
Returning once more to the East we see an illustration of the absorption of the property of the people by railway magnates in the case of Jersey City. Of the 10,325 acres of land in that municipality, it is said that the railroads own 1185. Of a total valuation of property in the city of $80,000,000, $22,500,000 are owned by railroads, and this does not include the passenger depots, which are valued at $10,000,000. Thus $32,500,000 of ratables are taken out of a total of $80,000,000, leaving the other $47,500,000 to bear almost all the burdens of the maintenance of the municipality.
The condition of things in this country resulting from the “ what the traffic will bear " system of levying taxes upon transportation and communication by private individuals, is certainly grave, but recent events have proved that the people are not yet powerless. New York has already entered upon the enlargement of the Erie canal as a means of saving its industries from railway rapacity. Several of the States have passed laws compelling the railroads to carry bicycles free. Like straws floating upon the surface of a stream, these events indicate the direction of the current. A study of the following table, taken from Poor's Manual of 1897, will, I trust, at once strengthen the volume of this growing current of public opinion and accelerate its velocity.
1892 1893 1894 1895 1896
Cents. 90.62 91.70 84.47 79.99 78.58
41.93 44.25 41.72 38.66 35.67
23.59 25.0 23.87 23.88 24.38
Poor's figures differ somewhat from those of the Interstate Commission, but they convey the same lesson.
The avowed policy of the New Haven Road-to tie the workman to the soil, not to allow him to work in one town and to live in another town—this is the prevailing policy of the railway managers of the United States, and to this end we find, nailed upon the walls of the average passenger railroad station, the following proclamation:
The regular transport tax levied on this road for an hour's journey to and fro a man's job and his home is $1. (On some roads it is $1.50; on other roads, $2.) The object of this tax is to prohibit the use of this road to all individuals who, like the average Massachusetts farmer, earn but one dollara day.'
And the tax has its intended results. It debars the use of the railroads to the masses of the people; it also, in a vast number of cases, debars stockholders in railroads from expected dividends. Prohibitory rates prohibit profits.
“Certainly of the lines west of Chicago, and probably (with one exception) of the lines west of Buffalo and Pittsburgh, there is not a single road but what conducts its passenger business at a loss." -(“Railroading under Existing Conditions," R. R. Review, December 18, 1897.)
Yale Review, May, 1897, page 64.
THE COST OF SERVICE PRINCIPLE AND ITS APPLI. CATION TO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, UNDER
THE CONTROL OF THE POST-OFFICE.
“An ideal system of transportation,” says E. Porter Alexander, formerly one of the leading railway managers of the South, “would be one in which each shipper might sit quietly in his office and contract to deliver freight at any town in the United States, by referring to a printed tariff which would show rates as uniform as the rates of postage and not exorbitant in amount."
And, in his address before the Congressional Committee, already referred to describing what the New York Central and the Pennsylvania roads will do, when their power has been extended over the whole country, Mr. Depew says : “ Then the strong lines will say to the weak lines : ‘We will see that you get your percentage ; we will transfer enough of the entire consignable freight from our lines to yours to bring up your percentage, to enable you to support yourselves. If we cannot do that, we will make a money pool and will transfer sufficient money into your treasuries to support you. Then when the great combination comes along and wants special privileges, we will say : * No, we have no privileges to grant ; there is our tariff published in our office, published in our freight depots and in our passenger stations. It is like a government postage stamp ; everybody knows what it is. And so far as the carriers of this country are concerned, every man is treated alike. That is the ideal position toward which you have been legislating ; that is what you have sought to accomplish.'”
Now what are the characteristics of the postage stamp ?
First. The postage stamp carries its parcel to its destination, whether the distance be one mile or 3500.
Second. Every man pays the same price for his stamps, whether he buys one stamp or 10,000.
Third. The postage stamp is intended to represent the cost of the service rendered ; it is sold by the government, and the revenues derived therefrom are distributed by government officials.
Once give to railway tariffs the characteristics of the postage stamp, and we shall arrive at the ideal position toward which we have been legislating. As yet, however, we have taken but a very short step in this direction. The Interstate Act, as its name implies, left each of our railway kings in complete control of his own particular kingdom —that is to say, in control of the local traffic of the districts through which the railways pass, while the