Gaulkin, Collester and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Labrecque, J.A.D.
Appellants, competing independent bus operators on the West Orange, Springfield Avenue, South Orange Avenue and Roseville bus routes (the independents), appeal from a decision of the Board of Public Utility Commissioners (the Board) approving the petition of Public Service Coordinated Transport (Public Service) to combine its No. 21 Orange bus route with its No. 4 Port Newark bus route into a through route to be known as No. 21 Orange-Port Newark bus route.
Previous to the filing of its petition Public Service held permits to operate 50 buses on the Orange line between the Mississippi Avenue loop in West Orange and the Pennsylvania Station in Newark, and 20 buses on the Port Newark line between its Roseville garage (at 14th Street) and Newark Airport and Port Newark. The petition sought approval of the operation of the two lines as a single one, thereby eliminating passenger changes for Orange line passengers destined for points east of Pennsylvania Station, Newark, and passengers from Port Newark whose destinations were points west of 14th Street. The application was opposed by the independents, some of whom gave transfers to passengers traveling east of Pennsylvania Station.
At the hearing testimony was received from Public Service's traffic manager and six public witnesses. The independents called no witnesses. The examiner reported that the combination of the two lines, providing direct service from West Orange to Port Newark, was in the public interest
and better met the requirements of public convenience and necessity, and recommended approval. The independents filed exceptions which were, after hearing, disallowed by the Board. The present appeal is from the Board's order granting the application.
We first dispose of the contention by Public Service that appellants were without sufficient standing to oppose the application. In Public Service, etc., Transp. v. Newark-Elizabeth, etc., Ass'n, 3 N.J. 118, 122-125 (1949), on which it relies, the application involved only the substitution of a similar number of one type of vehicle for another type, and while the objecting independent bus operators had some slight private interest in the action, there was not the slightest public interest to harmonize with it. See Elizabeth Federal S. & L. Ass'n. v. Howell, 24 N.J. 488, 503-504 (1957). Here the potential adverse affect of the proposed change in operation upon the portion of appellants' revenues derived from passengers carried by them destined for points west of 14th Street, and east of Pennsylvania Station, cannot be said to be beyond the pale of the public's interest in safe, adequate and solvent mass transit. Cf. id., at pp. 501-503. We hold that appellants had standing to oppose the application and maintain the present appeal. N.J.S.A. 48:4-11.
Appellants first contend that the proofs adduced failed to establish that the proposed combination "is necessary and proper for the public convenience and properly conserves the public interests." R.S. 48:2-14. We arrive at a contrary conclusion.
The Board has jurisdiction to pass upon service or operating changes such as the present one. N.J.S.A. 48:2-13; R.S. 48:2-14. Where the Board has passed on a question within its jurisdiction, its finding should not be reversed unless unwarranted in law or unfounded in fact, or unless a discretionary power has been plainly abused. Hudson
Bus, Transp. & Co. v. Board of Public Util. Com'rs, 131 N.J.L. 576, 579-580 (Sup. Ct. 1944); Hohorst v. Marion Bus Transp. Co., Inc., 5 N.J. Super. 279, 282 (App Div. 1949). Here we find the conclusions of the Board to be adequately supported by the proofs. The testimony of five of the six public witnesses pointed up the need for through service between the points indicated, and the inconvenience of changing buses at either 14th Street or Pennsylvania Station. The sixth public witness was of the opinion that operational difficulties would slow up the service if the lines were combined.
Edgerton, Public Service's traffic manager since 1960, testified concerning the increase in the number of passengers using the airport, the advantages which would accrue to the public because of the through service, and the inconvenience attached to the change of buses necessitated by the present method of operation. He also testified that the company's Roseville garage and terminal had been condemned for a new highway, thus doing away with the waiting room used by passengers changing from one line to the other and compelling passengers to make the transfer in the ...