Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

all. Thus, while progress in tramway construction might be slow, the rights of the public would be jealously guarded. A more hasty public opinion might, in the United States, result very differently. A vociferous demand for the latest improvement in transportation may lead to a very rapid development of the electrical railway, while obtained at the sacrifice of many valuable public interests.

The question is sure to arise, “ Has the American policy of practically free trade, as applied to street railways, secured for the people enough to make up for the evils incident to the system ?” The system has certainly secured for the people an efficient service developed with marked rapidity, while it will be urged that the English policy has retarded the growth of transit facilities and that the towns have injured themselves in their anxiety to drive sharp bargains with the companies. The most palpable advantage of the English system is perhaps that of cheap fares. The usual fare on English tramways is one penny per mile, or fraction thereof, while Glasgow, under municipal administration, has made a rate of one-half penny for one-half mile stages. In the United States the almost invariable usage is a five cent fare as the minimum for even the shortest distance, though in some cities a passenger may travel a maxi. mum distance of ten or fifteen miles for the same fare.'

A comparison of the tramway mileage in cities of equal size in England and America shows that the cities of the United States are much better supplied with transit facilities than are the English cities. This is indicated by the following table :

Longest ride for 5 cents. Chicago

15 miles,
Philadelphia

11.75
Brooklyn
Boston..
St. Louis....

15
Jersey City-Newark
San Francisco...
Minneapolis-St. Paul

12.94
Cincinnati

13.44
Cleveland...
Buffalo

13.75
- Street Railway Journal, July, 1896.

1 City.

18

9.9

8.25

12

[ocr errors]

10

,067

Street Mileage per

Mileage per
Area in
Railway

1,000 of Square Mile Population. Sq. Miles. Mileage. Population. of Area. Birmingham. 497,000 20.

33.
.066

1.65 Boston

494,000

37.
295.
.597

8.00 Edinburgh 289,000 14.

21.
.072

1.50 Detroit 300,000 28.

202.
.673

7.21
ŞLeeds
400,000 34.
27.

0.79 Cleveland.... 350,000

32.
205.
.585

6.40 Liverpool 641,000 21.

66.
103

3.14 St. Louis. 644,000 62.

216.
.320

3.50 Manchester - 530,000

20.
54.
.102

2.70 Baltimore... 512,000

34.
262.
511

7.70 | Bradford 228,000 17.

21.
.091

1.23 (New Orleans 250,000 40. 169.

.676

4.22 | London... 4,400,000 105.

230.
.052

2.19 New York... 1,851,000 59.

357.
.203

6.05 The very liberal treatment that has been accorded to the companies in the States may have had much to do with the larger mileage in American cities, and it is difficult to say just how much of the English lack of development is due to the restrictions of the “ Tramway Act, 1870," and how much is properly chargeable to the national traits of conservatism and dislike of new methods, and to the dread of anything that is likely to mar the beauty of historic places or involve any infringement upon long established property rights. From whatever cause, and probably from a combination of various causes, the actual street railway service of England, both as to mileage, car frequency and speed, cannot now be considered as equal to that of the cities in the United States. Also in most of the large English cities horse power is still used, while the horse car is nearly obsolete in the United States. The relative advantages and disadvantages of the two countries may be summed up as follows:

England gains, ist, by a much lower rate of fare for short distances travelled ; 2d, by much greater control over the companies in all matters pertaining to their relation to the public; 3d, by a system of short-term franchises, with provision for purchase of the tramways by the municipality; while by the actual ownership of the tramways in many cases better terms as to rates of fare, street rentals, etc., may be obtained from the companies, and largely increased revenue secured to the town as one of the conditions of the contract or lease with the operating company.

The United States gain by a rapid development of electric street railway facilities, which furnish a car service wherever it pays. This development has probably done something toward making suburban property available for homes, and thereby increasing the grand lists of the towns. It has increased the comfort and the possibilities of usefulness for many citizens, and has enabled large numbers of people to more fully economize their time. On the other hand, it has been attended with all sorts of abuses, such as over-capitalization and unreasonably high rates of fare, while legislative and municipal scandals in regard to "charter grabbing" have been only too common. The patrons of the roads are obtaining a good railway service, but at high cost.

The Englishman secures a relatively poor service at low cost, while he pursues a policy which, while it may retard development, yet protects the interests of the public at large and deters mere speculators from attempting the exploitation of the towns.

As a modification upon the stringent regulations of the English, the practice in Canada may be cited. The system now in operation in Toronto has in it many points worthy of imitation. The conditions of life there are so similar to those prevailing in many places in the United States that the experience of the Canadian city should be of much value. Toronto owns but does not operate the railway, whereas in England the tendency is now toward public ownership and operation also. For American cities to undertake this experiment would involve such grave objections through political abuses as to far outweigh the possible advantages, especially as it is yet to be shown that the working of the tramways by English municipalities has in itself wrought substantial benefit to the citizens.

Is not the best solution of the problem rather to be found in closer legislative control, in the limitation of the term for which charters may be granted, in the recognition of the value of the franchises and payment therefor, and in providing that rates of fare and other details of operation shall be matters of contract between city and company, to be determined when the charter is granted, and subject to readjustment at stated periods thereafter? New Haven, Conn.

CHARLES E. CURTIS.

THE RATIONALE OF CONGRESSIONAL

EXTRAVAGANCE.

,

HE headless condition of American public finance has

long been the remark of astonished foreign observers, and the concern even of some of those who live under it and suffer from it. Always defective in theory, in practice the American system of control over the national income and outgo has become, with time, more and more confused and uncertain, and has led to results more and more grotesque or alarming. With one set of men guessing at what the national revenue will be under the taxes imposed by them; with several other sets hazarding conflicting estimates of the national expenditure, according to appropriations made by them ; with the courts continually stepping in to declare taxes null and void, or to direct their incidence in ways different from the intention of those who framed them ; with appropriations“ held up” in the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury or vetoed by the Comptroller, it is no wonder that the shrewdest forecasts of the Treasury are often made ludicrous by the event, or that the whole system should sometimes seem a melancholy jumble.

True, the argument of pike and gun has long been available to those who maintain that it is the best possible system in the best of possible governments. Whatever you might say, just look at the results, look at the income leaping up to surpass the increasing expenses, look at the regularly recurring surplus. How can a system be bad which leads to such prosperity? The true question was all the while, of course, whether it was the system which led to the prosperity, or the prosperity that obscured the vices of the system. But there is no need of going back over all this now. The patient at last admits that he is ill. Even a nation long accustomed to take no note of its symptoms, to heed no warnings, has to acknowledge that something is wrong after the first session of the Fifty-fourth Congress.

It opened with a notice served by the most absolute Speaker in Congressional history, that the severest econ

omy would have to be practiced. Before a month had passed, the Committee on Ways and Means reported that the national revenues were grievously deficient, and proposed taxes which, in its opinion, would increase them. All through the session retrenchment and rigid economy were the cries of party press and party leaders. The chairman of the Committee on Appropriations was outspoken in his purpose of using the knife unsparingly. There was to be no river-and-harbor bill at all. Not a new public building was to be voted, not a new ship, not an unnecessary paper-cutter. The leaders seemed to be, and doubtless were, sincere and determined in all this, and the session slipped away with Congress complacently feeling that it was very virtuous and economical. It was with something like a rueful gasp, then, that it faced the facts at the close of the session. Not a bill to increase the declining revenue had become law, but bills appropriating much more than the revenue had passed in shoals. A swollen river-andharbor bill went through Congress and over the President's veto with the ease of fate. This frugal and patriotic Congress, meeting in a time of great financial embarrassment, private and public, stood in a sort of mute and shame-faced astonishment, confronting a total of $515,000,000 of the people's money voted away by it—a sum equal to the annual appropriations when a gigantic civil war was in progress, and a million men had to be supported under arms.

That the increase of appropriations has been a continuous phenomenon is shown by Secretary Carlisle in his last annual report, in a passage which is too pat to the purpose of this article to be left unquoted:

"The great increase in the ordinary expenditures of the Government during the last seven years has been without precedent in our history, in time of peace, and presents a subject which imperatively demands the most serious consideration of Congress. In 1870, for the first time after the close of the war, our public expenditures, excluding premiums on loans and purchases of bonds, but including interest and pensions, fell below the sum of $300,000,000, and they continued to decrease, with some fluctuations, until 1886, when

« AnteriorContinuar »