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stop with the United States. The papers of incorporation read that they could do business "in the United States and otherwise." (I suppose it meant "elsewhere.") They had to come to the commission for the right to do business on the trolleys; and the commission declined to allow the express company to do business-holding that it was the proper function of the road itself to take care of its own business, without an intervening corporation to extort additional charges.
15. Investigation of accidents. A close and careful investigation of all accidents which must under the law be at once reported to the commission is made. This may in some cases turn out to be of very great value in fixing the responsibility for the great destruction of life occurring on our railways.
16. Inspection by gas companies. All meters tested and inspected. Tests of quality, service, etc.
17. Inspection of electric companies. All new electric transmission lines inspected. All meters tested and inspected.
18. Minor complaints. A large number of small individual complaints have been remedied, covering a wide and fertile field of possible bad feeling toward the railways.
Of course a large number of unimportant complaints come to One of the most persistent was made by a distinguished gentleman who lives just outside the City of New York, and which he not only wrote about individually to the members of the commission and kept on writing to the commission, but finally appealed to the governor. It arose from the fact that in passing through the tunnel, which takes a few minutes, just north of the Grand Central Station in New York-the railroad employees instead of lighting all the lights in the car only lighted half of them, so that the complainant could not see to read very well. There was also an enterprising individual who complained that the theater tickets he bought did not allow him an unobstructed view of the stage; and he wrote to the public service commission for relief.
From July 1, 1907, to October 1, 1908, the public service commission of the second district has handled and disposed of one thousand six hundred and ninety-five cases, or an average
of four and a third cases for every working day since the com. mission went into office; which would seem to indicate that the commission has not been idle, however near "the extreme of futility" it may have come.
The result of the last election would seem to indicate that the supporters of the public service commissions law in New York had something to say; and that was that the law has come to stay. Of course a new responsibility is placed upon the governor; he has the appointment of the commission; and having also the power of dismissal he has as it were the whole thing in his hands. If the people fail to elect good governors we shall fail to have good commissions. If we fail to have good commissions we shall not get the good results we ought to have and which the law properly administered can give.
To my mind, as a firm believer in democratic government this is no objection to the bill. It is only an additional argument for the election of good governors.
The Public Utilities Commissions of
By JOSEPH B. EASTMAN, Boston
Secretary Public Franchise League of Massachusetts.
The regulation of public service corporations by means of state commissions is a firmly established policy in Massachusetts. It has passed its period of probation and taken its place, in popular thought, as a natural and even inevitable duty of the State government. It is not a political issue and has not been for a long time, for the people have grown up with the commissions, know the work which they have done and appreciate its value. The railroad commission began its career almost Massachusetts' forty years ago, in 1869; the board of gas and Established electric light commissioners dates back as far as 1885. Neither of them can be called an experiment. On the contrary, this method of government has reached a point in Massachusetts where there is some justification for stepping in and attempting to point out its achievements and shortcomings.
Recent commissions in other states have sprung into existence fully developed and armed, under comprehensive and scientific laws drawn with great care after a close study of similar laws and precedents. The Massachusetts system of regulation was not so devised. It is rather the product of gradual evolution, a structure built up little by little around the nucleus formed in 1869. In the early days the rights and duties of public-service corporations were but vaguely appreciated; the State was a pioneer in a new field, and it felt its way along step by step, doing, in effect, laboratory work by which the whole country has profited. As time went on, new classes of corporations were brought under supervision; new laws were passed; new powers
devised. The result is a mass of legislation, by no means symmetrical in form, rather crude, perhaps, in certain respects, but still legislation which embodies a system of effective regulation and which contains at least the germ of practically every important power now exercised by the various public-service commissions of the United States, powers which are not the result of theory alone, but of actual experience, and which have stood the test of time.
At present, three different boards of three members each supervise the public-service corporations of Massachusetts. The board of railroad commissioners has under its control railroads, street railways, steamship lines and, within the last two years, express companies. The board of gas and electric light commissioners supervises gas and electric light companies; the highway commission, telegraph and telephone companies. The powers and duties of these three boards are similar in important respects, but differ rather widely in details. All three must keep informed as to the condition and conduct of the companies under their supervision, make all necessary examinations and inquiries and advise the Legislature if any new legislation seems expedient. They must report all violations of the law to the attorney-general, and carefully investigate seri
ous accidents. In every case, the corporations must keep their accounts in a form prescribed, open their books to inspection at any time, submit annual, and in some cases quarterly, returns, giving sworn and detailed information in regard to their financial condition, management and operation, and furnish any further information that the commissions may desire. All three boards must give formal, public hearings upon any complaint as to rates or service which is signed by the mayor of a city, the selectmen of a town, or even twenty patrons of the company concerned. After such hearings and investigations, the railroad and highway commissions may recommend any changes that seem desirable, but the gas and electric light commissioners may issue positive orders, enforcible by legal process. In no case can a public-service corporation issue stock or bonds beyond an amount which the appropriate commission certifies is reason
ably necessary for the purpose required. More than that, no stock can be issued below par, nor can new shares be offered to stockholders except at a price either fixed or at least approved by the commission.
These are the more important general provisions. In addition, all three boards have certain special powers and duties. The railroad commission may act upon its own initiative, in cases where no formal complaint has been made, and recommend any changes in rates or improvements in equipment and service which seem desirable; but no such specific authority is given either to the gas and electric light or to the highway commission. In the case of a street railway, the railroad commission may actually order additional accommodations whenever such action seems necessary; with stringent penalties if the order is disobeyed. No steam or electric railroad can be built or even extended unless this board certifies that public convenience and necessity so require. No street railway can lay its tracks until the locations granted by the municipal authorities have met with its approval. It may even grant connecting locations between cities or towns against the vote of the local authorities. In addition, it has extensive and important duties in connection with the abolition of grade crossings, and power to prescribe signals, fenders, switches and certain other safety appliances. The board of gas and electric light commissioners is given special duties relative to testing gas and electric meters and fixing proper standards of pressure and of light. Moreover no competing company can lay its pipes or wires in any city or town unless this board first grants permission. Numerous other powers and duties of minor importance might be mentioned.
These commissions are all conducted simply and at small expense. Their offices are plain, subordinates are few, and the commissioners themselves easily accessible to the public. Their hearings are conducted with few formalities and without the aid of special legal advisers, for the chairmen are invariably members of the bar. Only one commissioner receives a salary as high as $6000 a year, and the total annual expenses of the three boards combined do not, as a rule, amount to as much as