Analysis of the Electric Railway Problem by Delos Wilcox Denver New Jersey 1921
Analysis of the Electric Railway Problem by Delos Wilcox Denver New Jersey 1921

Analysis of the Electric Railway Problem by Delos Wilcox Denver New Jersey 1921

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Analysis of the Electric Railway Problem by Delos Wilcox Denver New Jersey 1921
Analysis of the Electric Railway Problem by Delos Wilcox  Report to the Federal Electric Railways Commission with summary and recommendations, supplementd by special studies of local transportation issues in the State of New Jersey and the City of Denver, with notes on recent developments in the Electric Railway Field.  Copyright 1921  Hard Cover 789 pages.  Ex-Library book (University)
On May 15, 1919, the Secretaries of Commerce and Labor submitted to the President a joint recommendation for the appointment of a Federal commission to study and report upon the electric railway problem. During the war the traction companies had been caught between the upper and the nether millstones. The increase in the cost of labor and materials had been sharp, sudden and irresistible. The maximum five-cent fare, fixed by contract and by custom, had stood in the way of a prompt increase in revenues to meet the increase in the costs of the transportation service rendered. Through the National War Labor Board, the Federal Government had taken a hand in compelling the street railways to pay to their conductors and motormen what at that time seemed an enormous wage. While the nation was engaged in its gigantic struggle, continuity of street railway service had to be maintained at any price. The companies paid the wage bills and appealed to the Government to raise the fares. Failing to bring about direct interference either by Congress or by the President through some hoped-for exercise of war powers, they had to content themselves with trying to get favorable publicity and helpful recommendations to the state and local authorities. They sought, at the very least, the appointment of a Presidential commission to serve as a sort of national sounding-board before which they could beat the tom-tom and attract public attention everywhere to their financial distress and to the inadequacy of the five-cent fare.
On May 31, 1919, the Federal Electric Railways Commission was appointed, consisting of eight members representing various interests, as follows :
Charles E. Elmquist, president and general solicitor of the National Association of Railway and Utilities Commissioners.
Edwin F. Sweet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, and former mayor of Grand Rapids, Mich., representing the Department of Commerce.
Philip H. Gadsden, vice-president of the United Gas Improvement Company, and president of the Charleston Consolidated Railway and Lighting Company, representing the American Electric Railway Association.
Royal Meeker, Commissioner of Labor Statistics, representing the Department of Labor.
Louis B. Wehle, general counsel of the War Finance Corporation, representing the Treasury Department.
Charles W. Beall, of Harris, Forbes & Company, representing the Investment Bankers Association of America.
William D. Mahon, president of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employes of America, representing that association.
George L. Baker, mayor of Portland, Ore., representing the American Cities League of Mayors.
The Commission organized by electing Mr. Elmquist chairman and Mr. Sweet vice-chairman. Mr. Charlton Ogburn, who had served as chief examiner for the National War Labor Board in street railway controversies, was selected as executive secretary. At the time of its appointment, the Commission received from the President's war fund an appropriation of $10,000, and that was all of the public money ever made available for its work.
The Commission held one public hearing in New York in June and a series of hearings in Washington, extending, with interruptions, from July to October. The American Electric Railway Association was represented by able counsel, and its case, prepared by a special Committee of One Hundred, was laid before the Commission in an orderly and effective way. Later on, the Commission invited public service commissioners, mayors and some private individuals to come to Washington at their own expense and present the public side of the problem. Among the rest, I was invited. My testimony was given at considerable length on August 13th. Under the circumstances, the case for the public was necessarily presented in an uncoordinated and somewhat fragmentary way. In October the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employes put in an elaborate and carefully prepared case on behalf of organized labor.
In its report to the President, dated July 28, 1920, signed by all of its members, the Commission said : "At the conclusion of the final public hearing the Commission engaged the services of Dr. Delos F. Wilcox to aid in analyzing the testimony gathered and to make suggestions to the Commission with reference to its report. Dr. Wilcox made a very comprehensive analysis of the evidence, containing 823 pages of matter. The Commission regrets that it cannot publish this analysis with the proceedings, since it represents a complete and masterful study of the whole electric railway problem."
The inability of the Commission to publish my analysis as a part of its Proceedings is the occasion for its separate publication in this book. The Commission's Report and the Proceedings, containing all the testimony and certain supplementary documents, were published and distributed at the expense of the American Electric Railway Association, though I am advised that the Government Printer had some additional copies run off, which he is disposing of at cost. With respect to the publication and distribution of its Proceedings, the Commission said : "A complete report of the testimony will be printed, together with this report, and will be placed in the Congressional Library in Washington and other leading libraries in the country; with all regulatory commissions, and with the mayors of the leading cities of the United States."
In the belief that my Analysis ought to be available as a reference work along with the Report and Proceedings of the Commission, I decided to undertake its publication in the present form.
In Appendix A, I have included a review of Local Transportation Issues in New Jersey, prepared immediately following the conclusion of my report to the Commission. The New Jersey situation had been referred to at considerable length in the Testimony. The Public Service Railway lines ramify over the state of New Jersey from Newark as the center, reaching 140 municipalities ranging in population from 414,000 down to a few hundred. The Public Service Corporation of New Jersey, controlling through its subsidiaries the street railway, gas and electric services of two-thirds of the people of a great urban state, typifies the public utility problem for the entire country. In the review of the Public Service Railway proceedings most of the complex problems which were brought to the attention of the Federal Electric Railways Commission may be seen in cross section.
In Appendix B, I am including a report on Certain Aspects of the Traction Problem of the City of Denver, prepared in October, 1920, for the Denver Commission of Religious Forces, and hitherto unpublished. In it I have discussed a typical street railway valuation problem and have analyzed a typical service-at-cost plan worked out by the Denver Tramway Adjustment Committee of Fifty-Five during the very time when the Federal Electric Railways Commission was busy with its investigation.
The Denver plan was defeated at the polls by a narrow vote. Its significance lies in the fact that the Federal Electric Railways Commission recommended service at cost as a solution of the electric railway problem, and service at cost has been taken up as the program of the street railway companies themselves. The rejected Denver plan is typical of what may be expected through the active cooperation of the leading business interests of any urban community with a utility in financial distress upon the assumption that the solution of the problem must in any event be found in continued private ownership and operation.
My analysis of the evidence presented to the Federal Electric Railways Commission confirmed me in the opinion that no permanent solution of the electric railway problem, consistent with the public interest, is possible except in public ownership. I advised the Commission that the most important thing to be done at the present time is frankly to recognize the necessity of public ownership and operation as an ultimate policy and to concentrate effort upon plans for the removal of obstacles in its way and for the assurance of its success when undertaken. The Commission, not concurring in this view, put forward the service-at-cost plan as a means of resuscitating and prolonging the life of private ownership and operation. In these kaleidoscopic days the financial condition and public relations of any particular street railway are likely to change almost overnight. But, for all that, the underlying problems remain the same, and the need for a permanent policy, based upon the recognition that the public interest in urban transportation is paramount, continues to be imperative regardless of temporary shifts in the condition and relations of particular companies.
The final solution of the problem, as I see it, lies in the full recognition of public responsibility for local transportation and in the acceptance by the community of the primary obligation of self-help in the performance of this all-important community service.

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