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In re Application of Central Railroad Co.

Decided: September 28, 1956.

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF THE CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY OF NEW JERSEY FOR PERMISSION TO DISCONTINUE ITS MOTOR BUS SERVICE OPERATED BETWEEN RED BANK AND BEACHWOOD, NEW JERSEY, IN SUBSTITUTION FOR PASSENGER TRAINS NO. 4625 AND NO. 4606, AND IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF JERSEY CENTRAL TRANSPORTATION COMPANY FOR APPROVAL OF THE ABANDONMENT OF BUS SERVICE BETWEEN RED BANK AND BEACHWOOD ON THE RED BANK-BEACHWOOD BUS ROUTE. (P.U.C. ROUTE-FILE NO. 094-022)


Goldmann, Freund and Conford. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.

Goldmann

We are asked to review the decision of the Board of Public Utility Commissioners denying permission to the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Jersey Central Transportation Company, to discontinue substitute bus service between Red Bank and Beachwood, N.J.

In May 1951 the railroad sought permission from the Board to discontinue the operation of two round-trip passenger trains operating Monday through Saturday between Red Bank and Barnegat. Trains Nos. 4606 and 4625, one

leaving Barnegat early in the morning to make connection at Red Bank for New York, and the other returning from Red Bank in early evening, were commuter trains carrying from 25 to 28 passengers. In order to reduce the $73,000 annual deficit resulting from the operation of the Red Bank-Barnegat service, the railroad applied for, and in October 1951 obtained permission from the Board to discontinue this train service on condition that substitute bus service be provided in its place. The substitute bus operation was inaugurated March 21, 1952 by the Jersey Central Transportation Company. Subsequently, by decision dated October 1, 1952, the Board modified its earlier order to permit elimination of the bus service on Saturdays and termination of the Monday-through-Friday operation at Beachwood instead of Barnegat.

Bus passenger volume fell off, so that by September 1955 there was an average of only five passengers on the morning bus from Beachwood to Red Bank, and seven on the return evening trip, two of these seven not holding commuter's tickets. The five commutation passengers used the bus and railroad facilities in getting to and from their employment in mid-town and down-town New York City. The testimony was that the annual out-of-pocket loss for operating the Red Bank-Beachwood bus service was $14,800 a year, taking into consideration all branch revenue and applying no costs for train transportation of passengers between Red Bank and New York City. Otherwise, the loss was $17,000. (It was incidentally testified that the $14,800 was as much money as Jersey Central Railroad Company made from all its operations in 1954.) It further appears that the railroad lost $2,806,000 in 1954 on its passenger service, before any assignment of common expenses to passengers, and expects this loss to increase to over $3,000,000 in view of wage increases under negotiation at the time of the hearing and because of loss of mail revenue.

In the light of the reduced bus passenger volume and the annual losses, the railroad and Jersey Central Transportation Company filed applications on August 31 and September

23, 1955, respectively, for authority to discontinue operation of the bus service between Red Bank and Beachwood. At the hearing on the applications petitioners adduced testimony as to the past history of the branch line, bus passenger volume, costs and losses, and available alternate bus service for those using the present bus. Five patrons of the connecting bus service testified in opposition to the applications, four being regular commuters to New York and the fifth an occasional user who purchased single one-way or roundtrip tickets. The objectors claimed that discontinuance of the present bus service would prove an inconvenience in travelling to and from their places of employment, and that it would increase their transportation costs because commutation tickets are not available for travel on the proposed alternate bus service running direct to the Port Authority Building in mid-town New York City.

In denying the application the Board of Public Utility Commissioners made four specific findings: (1) there is a "nominal" continuing demand for the present connecting bus service; (2) the proposed alternate bus service between Lakewood and vicinity and New York does not afford comparable service and would not meet the requirements of public convenience and necessity; (3) present out-of-pocket losses in operating the connecting bus service are not disproportionate to the losses that might have been anticipated upon inauguration of the service pursuant to the Board's decision of October 1951; and (4) discontinuance of the present bus service would subject the few remaining patrons to unreasonable inconvenience in travelling between their homes and places of employment.

The first point made by the petitioning railroad and Jersey Central Transportation Company on this appeal is that the Board's findings are inadequate. The Board, of course, was obliged to make findings of basic facts and, if the need appears, state the reasons for its decision. In re Central Railroad Company of N.J. , 29 N.J. Super. 32, 38-39 (App. Div. 1953). Petitioners' particular complaint is that the Board failed to make the minimum specific finding

that public necessity and convenience either required the continuation of the service in question or that it did not. Such a finding is fundamental to a decision in a case like this. See, for example, In re New Jersey and New York R. Co. , 12 N.J. 281, 285, 289 (1953), where a finding was made. The Board in the present case did not make a specific finding of public necessity and convenience, although such a finding might perhaps be spelled out from a liberal reading of the entire decision. A finding as basic as this should not be left ...


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