Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/313

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RAILROAD PROBLEM IN THE UNITED STATES.

climate, which in northern latitudes may wholly suspend traffic at times or make train service in an extraordinary degree both expensive and hazardous; the enormous cost of bridges and tunnels, and the terminal facilities of great cities—all fairly weigh as causes for varying assessments of tariff. Surely such considerations as these must set aside any attempt at the solution of railroad difficulties by the arbitrary rule of a uniform rate—uniform only in name, for genuine uniformity of charge can only be worked out by a broad view of the whole business of railroading in its full extent and detail, a view which it would be folly to expect a State Assembly or a State Board to take.

The trunk-lines connecting the West with the Atlantic have a Joint Executive Commission at New York, for the establishment and maintenance of rates. Though suffering from the merely voluntary nature of its constitution, and without the power of legally enforcing its agreements, the commission gets along pretty well, mainly through the esteem in which are held the character and ability of its chief commissioner, Mr. Fink. He gives a clear explanation of how co-operation, federation, or what is commonly called "pooling," may solve the problem of fixing rates and making railroads keep to them. Pooling may be explained, to readers unfamiliar with the term, as the gathering into a common fund of all the receipts of a group of railroads (or other corporations), for division according to a prearranged scale of apportionment. Mr. Fink points out that in peace or war the proportions of freight carried by the different through lines remain substantially invariable. He dwells on the powerful motives acting within the railroad business itself to prevent exorbitant charges. Traffic would not grow unless fairly treated, and the efforts of railroad managers have plainly been to reduce rates whenever possible to do so. The pool of which Mr. Fink is chief commissioner has gradually reduced its charges until they have fallen below those of the Erie Canal. The Southwestern pool has constantly reduced its tariff, seeing in that policy the best means for increasing its business and the net profits of its roads. Water competition has a far-reaching effect in railroad tariff, as an illustration will show: A reduction in rates between Chicago and New York, to meet lake and canal tariffs, creates reductions at Louisville, Nashville, and Savannah, for these cities have also their competing routes to New York. All rail routes from Chicago to so interior a point as Atlanta must conform to the total rate made up of the charges from Chicago to New York, from New York to Savannah by sea, and from Savannah to Atlanta by rail. Mr. Fink shows that competition within the pool is powerful to prevent excessive charges—thus the roads running from Indianapolis eastward must meet Chicago competition, otherwise shippers would send their freights to Chicago to go East, and the Indianapolis roads would remain idle. The bitterest complaint against railroads, that of discriminations in favor of individuals and special firms, finds its removal in