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1921: Jersey City Under Commission Government
A Book of Achievement

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Fighting Increased Trolley Fares

HE Commissioners of Jersey City have conducted a vigorous and on the whole a successful fight to prevent the increase of trolley fares. The trolley franchises owned by the Public Service Railway Company in Jersey City were supposed to be a binding contract, and have been so proclaimed for years by the railroad. These franchises carry the express provision that at no time should the fare be increased above five cents. To the surprise of the people our courts held that the Public Utility Law passed in Governor Wilson's term, providing for the fixing of rates by the Public Utility Commission, repealed these contract provisions as to a five cent fare.

There is no such language in the act and nobody at the time the act passed ever dreamed that such a construction could be placed upon the law, but the courts have read into the act an implied power to revoke these franchise contracts and that power has been exercised by the Public Utility Commissioners.

First Increased Fare.

In 1916 the Public Service Railway Company applied for an increase of fare from five cents to seven cents, and one cent extra for transfer. The Jersey City Commissioners immediately contested this application, employing special counsel. This fight lasted many months, experts on both sides were produced, and the result was that the Commission refused to grant the seven-cent fare with one cent for transfer, but did grant a six-cent fare. The saving to our people by this fight amounted to many thousands of dollars.

A year later a new application was made by the Public Service Railway Company, and the principal municipalities of the State joined together to fight it. These associated municpalities retained Mr. Frank H. Sommer as counsel, and a long and very expensive contest ensued. Jersey City bore a large share of this expense.

Zone Fare System.

During this contest the experiment of the zone fare system was tried, the result of which was to largely increase the cost of transportation to the most of our people. The Commissioners of Jersey City by its special counsel opposed this system and the result was that after some weeks of trial it was abandoned at a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars to our street car riders.

After the election of Governor Edwards the Jersey City Commissioners preferred charges against the Public Utility Commissioners, alleging that they had unduly and improperly favored the Public Service Corporation in the matter of raising electric light, trolley and gas rates. The city instructed its special counsel to prosecute these charges. As a result the Governor removed the Commissioners and the matter was taken to the courts and the removal of the Commissioners upheld. The result of this contest was the passage of legislation establishing a new Commission and the appointment by Governor Edwards of the existing Public Utility Commission.

In the meantime the Public Service Railway Company had applied for an increase of fare to ten cents, and the Jersey City Commissioners opposed this application and retained special counsel to fight it.

The transportation problem is one the greatest that now confronts our city. This problem will be found discussed and plans for the future considered in an article in another part of this book entitled "Transportation."

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