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PRESIDENT TODD :— The next business will be the Report of the Committee on Trackless Transportation, Mr. H. B. Flowers, Vice-President and General Manager, United Railways and Electric Company of Baltimore, Baltimore, Md., Chairman.
Mr. Flowers presented the report.
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON TRACKLESS
To the American Electric Railway Association:
GENTLEMEN: Your Committee has considered the subject of Railless Transportation as including the use for passenger transportation of either gasoline propelled or “trackless trolley buses, designed for such service and operated to furnish regular daily service of the standard required of electric railway companies. It does not consider that irregular, unregulated service with unsuitable vehicles, like the usual "jitney” offers, comes within the purview of its study and report.
We believe firmly that all of the transportation requirements of any community should be furnished by one agency and that that agency should be the Electric Railway Company. It alone has the trained organization and ripe experience required for handling passenger transportation problems and the development of any other agency for handling those problems would result merely in a duplication of service which could produce only a higher cost of transportation for the public. We have already to a large extent convinced the public that our business is a natural monopoly, as is evidenced by many rulings of State Commissions in eliminating or refusing permits for duplicate service. The public should therefore look to the Electric Railway Companies, as the sole transportation agency, to give them such extensions of service as it wants, if the request is reasonable and the need apparent. Hence it is our duty, as public servants charged with the responsibility for conducting the highway transportation in our respective communities, to study and consider the availability of every feasible unit or method for furnishing this service. * We find that railless transportation has come to be recognized by the Electric Railway industry as an aid to transportation if properly fostered, and is recognized by regulatory authorities as a menace unless properly supervised and controlled and required to pay its just share of taxes and public charges.
We find also that the automotive industry has progressed in the past few years to the point where it is now producing vehicles of a design suitable for passenger transportation service.
In the light of these findings the questions arise as to the economic and practical field of usefulness of the railless vehicle.
It is recognized that the electric car running on rails is the most essential, reliable and economical method of urban, suburban and interurban travel, considering the transportation problem as a whole and especially for mass transportation. This condition arises largely from the fact that the operating cost per passenger is higher for bus operation than with electric cars.
There is, however, a field in transportation in which the railless vehicle can furnish service satisfactory alike in operation and economy, that is, where the traffic is so light that the higher cost per passenger of operating the bus is offset by the relatively high fixed charges per passenger with such light traffic which result from the electric railway's investment in track. The possibility of utilizing the motor bus or trackless trolley should therefore be kept in mind by electric railway operators, either where they are confronted by the necessity of extending transportation service into sections where traffic will be light, or in the economically similar situation of being required to rebuild tracks on a line where the traffic is too light to warrant the track investment. In the latter case the economic procedure might be to abandon the track and install bus service. Your committee cannot state with more exactness just where railless transportation should be adopted, but feels that the individual operator will be able to decide as to the possibilities of these new fac ties wherever careful analysis of any given situ on shows that the trackless vehicle can be used to advantage.
Your Committee considered the question of entering into the costs of operation of various types of trackless vehicles and can do no more than to recommend the study of the data sheets compiled by this Association. There has not been enough general experience to justify the publication of the figures obtained. The independent operators have not kept figures that can be considered reliable as they are not kept in accordance with the Interstate Commerce Commission system which has been adopted by most state regulatory bodies. This is also true of figures on trackless trolley operation.
One of the most important matters affecting the cost of bus operation is that of special taxes or charges by states or municipalities for the wear on pavement or road surface caused by bus operation. This question is receiving every year more study by state legislatures and other governing bodies, resulting in many cases in recommendations or legislation increasing these charges. Governmental policy on this subject is still in too indefinite shape to admit of a general statement at this time, other than to say that the matter should be weighed in considering the adoption of railless transportation in any locality, and to recommend the further study of this phase of the subject by our Association.
A Committee of the Engineering Association was instructed to study the subject of Railless Transportation from the viewpoint of design, and has made a careful study of the situation and collected data which is on file at the headquarters of the Association. Your Committee feels, however, that the development of motor and trackless trolley buses, as adjuncts to the electric railways is still at too early a stage to warrant the recommendation at this time of standards of design. We feel that in this matter individual companies must be governed by their local requirements, working in collaboration with the various manufacturing interests.
A corresponding Committee of the Transportation and Traffic Association was instructed to work with your Committee and has also collected valuable data which is on file at the Association Headquarters.
Your Committee has given some consideration to the effect of bus service upon the financial situation of the electric railways. he basic transportation service in any community is and will be furnished upon rails. Trackless service will be found supplementing but not competing with that of the electric railway. The bus may be considered as additional equipment for the street railway. If the service of both means of transportation are co-ordinated, the net return of each will be reflected in the net return of the electric railway. New capital is annually required in the operation of a street railway. Part of this new capital may well be used in the development of trackless service in the field above mentioned. Present investment in the electric railway is thereby conserved, the growing demands for service met and the return to the investor stabilized.
In addition to the function of supplementing the street railway service at the same rate of fare, there has been found to exist in some of the larger cities a demand (at a higher rate of fare) for a transportation service in addition to the electric railway which shall insure a seat for every passenger. Such service is similar to that furnished by the Fifth Avenue Coach Company in New York and by others in Chicago, Baltimore and other cities. This service is furnished by buses; it costs more to furnish than the existing electric carfare will pay for, but it is believed to be proven, in this and other kinds of business, that the public is willing to pay a rate of fare which will compensate for the cost of the service it wants.
The possibilities of development of transportation with railless vehicles should interest the industry greatly, and your Committee feels that the study of the development in the design and construction of railless vehicles and their adaptability for highway transportation should be carried on further by a committee of your Association.
SUMMARY The conclusions and recommendations of your Committee may be summarized as follows:
1. The electric car on rails is, with minor exceptions, the most reliable and economical method now known for handling local passenger travel, especially mass transportation.
2. The automotive industry has developed a vehicle suitable for passenger transportation.
3. The operating cost per passenger is higher with buses than with electric cars, but in spite of this handicap the bus is, in some cases more economical for handling light traffic.
4. The public interest requires that the Electric Railways should be the sole passenger transportation agency in their respective communi
this makes for the cheapest transportation for the public; it also involves the duty of studying all available transportation methods.
5. Development of Railless Transportation by electric railways, if intelligently carried out, should not adversely affect the railways financially.
6. While a demand for a more expensive service for certain parts of the larger cities may be filled by the use of buses, their principal function is, and will be, as adjuncts to electric railway service.
7. Believing that railless transportation contains interesting possibilities for the electric railway industry, the further study of the subject by a committee of your Association is recommended.
J. N. SHANNAHAN,
H. B. FLOWERS, Chairman,
PRESIDENT TODD :- Gentlemen, you have heard this very interesting and instructive report by Mr. Flowers on trackless transportation. We will be glad to have a full discussion on this subject. Is there anyone here who would like to take up the details of this report? The discussion is open, gentlemen, if you would like to discuss it. We would like to hear from anyone who is interested in the subject. It is certainly a live and important subject to the street railway companies.
ZENAS W. CARTER (The White Company): May I ask if our company has the right to speak on the floor? We are motor manufacturers.
ZENAS W. CARTER :- Gentlemen, I just want to detain you here for a moment before you close this subject. I would like to ask your pardon, but I realize from the contact we have had during this show, that the subject is not only disturbing to many of you, but is vital in some cases, and I am very glad to say, gentlemen, that in a great number of cases it is most inspiring, and the one point I want to emphasize and present to you is the inspiring point, because I am very confident, from our studies (I have had unusual privilege in making important investigations and intimate contact), I am very confident from our studies that you need have no fear from the motor bus, provided you are in your organization fully alive to the situation as it relates to your responsibility to your public. I am delighted with this report.
On behalf of the President of the White Company, whom I consider it a great pleasure to represent, I want to say that I feel confident he will agree with most of that report. His only statement, I think, will be that it is unfortunate you have not yet more fully realized the possibilities of Gas Motor transportation in the passenger field.
The statement in the report of your Committee is correct, that you can transport passengers and freight, gentlemen, at less cost electrically than by gas. I do not make that statement just to please you men, and I do not mean to make that statement unqualifiedly. There are some phases of transportation, passenger and freight, where, if all the factors are considered, you will find that it is less expensive to use a Motor vehicle, such as a bus or motor truck, than the electric equipment.
I will not detain you with any attempt to go into that statement in detail. I only want to visualize to you gentlemen the opportunities which are before you in the use of the Motor Bus.
Perhaps it is not reasonable to expect the development of the motor truck and motor bus to come about as our radio has come into almost full-fledged acceptance, seemingly having sprung up over night. This motor industry as a developer of transportation will only reach its full fruition after some years of action and reaction in the minds of the public on its potentialities.