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ties of the compensation problem. But it will be indispensable, at the outset, whatever shall be attempted, to exert the rightful prerogative of Government and impose it, as an imperative duty, on all railway carriers, to accept and transport, at the compensation established by law and according to the statute and departmental regulations, all mails, mail supplies, postal clerks, and inspectors on duty, with sufficient sanctions to enforce compliance. Unless such legislation be provided, no success, upon any plan can be assured. The right to this acquiescence in the purposes of the Government is undeniable. The absence of means to compel acknowledgment by obedience constitutes a menace to the business of the country which ought not to continue.”
And yet this menace still continues and the railroads continue to charge the Government for the annual rental of its travelling post-offices far more than it would cost to build them. In the last fifteen years, the Government has paid out for the use of these cars over $30,000,000, of which, according to the estimate made by Mr. Vilas, in 1887, $1,500,000 a year at least, or a total of full $22,500,000 has been absolutely wasted, and this in addition to the other millions paid out for so-called special facilities and for unnecessary steamship subsidies, to say nothing of the extravagant sums appropriated for ordinary railway mailservice. And yet the deficiency in the postal service is attributed to the cent a pound rate on
second-class matter. Unquestionably there will be a deficiency in the business of the Post-office so long as the Government pays the railroads eight cents a pound for doing only about half the service for which it receives one cent. But is it necessary to pay railway managers this enormous tax? Which is the Government of this country, the Congress of the United States or the members of the Joint Traffic Association, or is Congress but the agent of this railway association ?
Certain of the trans-continental roads have been battling before the United States Courts for the last nine years for the legal right to carry foreign books, carpets, cutlery, etc., from New Orleans to San Francisco for eight tenths of a cent a pound and as we have seen, they have just gained their suit. Would these railroads have made the long fight for these rates if they had not been profitable ? But if they can carry these foreign products across the continent for eight tenths of a cent a pound, then surely they can carry Government mail-bags, average hauls of 442 miles for very much less money. Five tenths of a cent a pound, ten dollars a ton would be a large payment for such a service. The probabilities are that with the Government ownership of postal cars, the business could be done at a very much lower rate. The conclusion of the whole matter seems to be that the real governing powers of a country are the powers that determine its public transportation taxes.
DISTANCE A FALSE BASIS FOR THE DETERMINATION
OF RAILWAY RATES.
The evil in the present condition of the American railway world is almost as much in the principle on which transportation taxes (local taxes) are determined, as in the arbitrary power of the private corporations by whom these taxes are farmed. The ton-mile, passenger-mile basis of rates, says Mr. Haines, late president of the American Railway Association, is fallacious, misleading, untrue, and without practical value to the railway superintendent or railway manager. The local passenger rate is lost sight of when competition or commutation or excursions are to be considered, and the rate per ton-mile is the last thing thought of in making freight tariffs, and finally he concludes his notable address, delivered in New York, October 14, 1891, with the statement that he has sought to impress his audience with the absurdities of the ton-mile, passenger-mile basis of rates, and the injustice to railway managers of using such a basis for measuring their operations or criticising their management. It is but fair to add that, in this address, Mr. Haines is discussing through traffic. We all know that, in local business, ton-miles and passenger-miles continue to be measured out with the greatest care and with the result that, instead of one uniform tax, for each class of service for all distances within a railway system, there are millions of different taxes levied even on single systems. It is said that there are thirty million different rates on the London and Northwestern Railway system of England.
This mileage system is followed not because there is any equity in it, not because distance measures the real cost of the conveyance of persons or of property by railway, but because it does fairly measure the cost by the old methods of transportation in vogue before the invention of the railwaythe cost of transportation on foot or on horseback —and because it thus enables the railway manager to so guage his non-competitive rates that the people will find it just a little cheaper and a little quicker, just a little more convenient, and a little more comfortable, to travel by train than to walk or to hitch up their teams. A more effective means for exacting all the traffic will bear and for keeping the districts through which the railways pass in their original human burden-bearer and ox-team condition could not be devised. Our local railway tariffs are usually from fifty to seventy-five per cent. higher than their through tariffs, and they are accompanied by a correspondingly poorer service. One of the friends of the New York, New Haven, & Hartford Railway Company testified before the Railway Committee of the Connecticut Legislature, in the winter of 1895, that he could wish for no greater punishment for the managers of that road in the next world than to be obliged to travel continually on their own accommodation trains.
But there is another evil connected with this mileage system of rates that is also worthy of the most thoughtful consideration. The longer the track between stations, the more the miles to be taxed to local traffic. The possible profit to be extorted from this traffic by running trains over long and crooked lines, leads to a waste of capital at the outset, by encouraging the construction of unnecessary mileage in the building of new roads, and to a perpetual waste of time and of labor in the operation of the roads, by discouraging the cutting out of unnecessary miles in old lines.
The mileage taxes levied on the way traffic of the New York Central bring in a revenue so much beyond the cost of running the trains that the company could not afford to allow their road to be shortened by several miles, even if the work was done at the expense of the State. They would lose an opportunity to levy unnecessary taxes upon way travel alone, amounting to at least forty cents a train-mile for every mile of track cut out of their main line. The fifty way travellers on the average passenger train on the main line not only pay a profit of forty cents a train-mile on the cost of their own transportation, but also pay the entire cost of