Clapp, Goldmann and Ewart. Clapp, S.j.a.d.
This is an appeal from orders of the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners authorizing certain reductions in the passenger service on the Seashore Branch of The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey, a branch operating between Matawan and Highlands.
Something must be said by way of background. Every year since 1936, except 1943, there have been deficits in the passenger service on the Jersey Central Lines. These Lines which comprise the applicant here, The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey, and five affiliated companies, state these deficits amounted in 1936 to $1,131,000 and in 1951 to $2,435,000, leaving out of account any part of the taxes and other expenses common to both passenger and freight operations. If a fair share of those taxes and expenses are allocated to passenger operations, the Lines say these deficits came in 1936 to $4,500,000 and in 1951 to nearly $10,000,000. There has been a falling off in the number of passengers on the Lines, excluding commuters, from 12,700,000 in the peak war year of 1943 to 3,200,000 in 1951; and in the number of commuters, from 15,060 a day in 1930 to 8,203 a day in 1950. On the other hand, it is not to be overlooked that, taking into account freight revenues, the Lines realized a net income in 1951 amounting, it is claimed, to 2.71% on the investment.
Faced with these deficits, the Central Railroad, after a comprehensive study, made an application to the Board for orders which, though affecting less than 5% of its passengers, would, it is said, eliminate 10% of the train miles and reduce the deficit by an estimated $467,583. In the course of the hearings, the application with respect to the Seashore Branch was severed from the main case, and the board's orders thereon are the only matters before us.
Indeed the appellants here, to avoid the printing of too voluminous a record, deal only with changes permitted as to three trains on the Seashore Branch, 4009, 4309 and 4008, stating these to be the most serious changes proposed, but charging that the errors below, illustrated in connection with these trains, infect other changes authorized in the Seashore Branch.
These are the changes proposed as to the three trains:
Train 4009 is a through train from New York to Highlands, leaving New York at 4:20 P.M. and arriving at Highlands at 5:49 P.M. It carries 258 passengers (to use the board's figure) for the Seashore Branch. This train is eliminated by the order below. Under the revised schedule, passengers may take train 3319 to which extra coaches will be attached for their convenience. It leaves New York at 4:10 P.M., ten minutes earlier. At Matawan the extra coaches will be removed, and under another locomotive they will proceed to Highlands as train 5019, arriving there at 5:44 P.M., five minutes earlier. Net time lost, five minutes.
Train 4309 runs from Newark to Atlantic Highlands, leaving Newark at 4:44 P.M. and arriving at Atlantic Highlands at 5:56 P.M. It carries 221 passengers (the board's figure) to the Seashore Branch. This train is eliminated by the decision below. In its place passengers may use train 4011, which runs from Jersey City to Highlands. Cars will leave Newarl. at 4:55 P.M., 11 minutes later. This change accommodates employees of the Prudential Insurance Company who had requested that 4309 leave ten minutes later. The cars will be attached to 4011 at Elizabethport so that passengers need not change trains there. 4309 arrives at Atlantic Highlands at 6:19 P.M., 23 minutes later. Net time lost, 12 minutes.
Train 4008 carries 77 passengers (the board's figure) from the Seashore Branch, in addition to 87 school children, leaving Highlands at 7:54 A.M., the passengers arriving in New York at 9:31 A.M. This train is also eliminated by the order below. Under the change, motor coach service will be provided by the railroad, running between Highlands and Matawan (14.4 miles), three buses leaving Highlands at 7:48 A.M., six minutes earlier, and arriving in Matawan to connect with train 3308 which arrives in New York at 9:20 A.M., 11 minutes earlier. Net time gained, five minutes. In addition two buses are to be operated from Highlands especially for the convenience of the 87 school children, running at a schedule to suit school hours.
As appellants say, public necessity and convenience are the controlling criteria, against which any discontinuance
of railroad service must be measured. In re New Jersey & New York R. Co. , 12 N.J. 281 (1953); Penna. R. Co. v. Bd. of Pub. Utility Com'rs. , 11 N.J. 43, 51 (1952); Penna.-Reading S.S. Lines v. Bd. of Pub. Utility Com'rs. , 5 N.J. 114 (1950). It will be perceived at once that public needs do not demand the changes here and, except for the insurance company employees mentioned, the changes allowed below will not add to public convenience. But that does not put an end to the inquiry. Where fairly comparable substituted service is provided by the railroad so that public necessities are satisfied and where the proposed changes in service do not put the public to any major inconvenience and can be said to be warranted by serious financial circumstances, then those changes, found by the board to be advisable, should be sustained. We do not deal with ...