MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the court.
In 1907, the legislature of West Virginia passed an act fixing the maximum fare for passengers on railroads, as described in the statute, at two cents a mile. Acts, 1907, Ch. 41, p. 226. After the rate had been tested by operating under it for two years, the plaintiff in error brought this suit to restrain its enforcement as being in violation of the
1. The fundamental question presented is whether the validity of the passenger rate can be determined by its effect upon the passenger business of the company, separately considered. What has been said in the opinion in Northern Pacific Railway v. North Dakota, decided this day (ante, p. 585), makes an extended discussion of this question unnecessary. It was recognized that the State has a broad field for the exercise of its discretion in prescribing reasonable rates for common carriers within its jurisdiction; that it is not necessary that there should be uniform rates or the same percentage of profit on every sort of business; and that there is abundant room for reasonable classification and the adaptation of rates to various groups of services. It was further held that despite this range of permissible action, the State has no arbitrary power over rates; that the devotion of the property of
These considerations are controlling here. The passenger traffic is one of the main departments of the company's business; it has its separate equipment, its separate organization and management, and of necessity its own rates. In making a reasonable adjustment of the carrier's charges, the State is under no obligation to secure the same rate of return from each of the two principal departments of business, passenger and freight; but the State may not select either of these departments for arbitrary control. Thus, it would not be contended that the State might require passengers to be carried for nothing, or that it could justify such action by placing upon the shippers of goods the burden of excessive charges in order to supply an adequate return for the carrier's entire service. And, on the same principle, it would also appear to be outside the field of reasonable adjustment that the State should demand the carriage of passengers at a rate so low that it would not defray the cost of their transportation, when the entire traffic under the rate was considered, or would provide only a nominal reward in addition to cost. That fact, satisfactorily proved, would be sufficient to rebut the presumption of reasonableness; and if in any case it could be said that there existed other criteria by reference to which the rate could still be supported as a reasonable one for the transportation in question, it would be necessary to cause this to appear. Northern Pacific Railway v. North Dakota, supra, and cases there cited.
2. So far as findings are concerned, we have in the present case simply a general, or ultimate, conclusion of
3. The passenger rate in question went into effect in May, 1907, and was observed by the company until about September, 1909, when under the terms of the interlocutory injunction in this suit the charge was increased to two and one-half cents a mile. There were, therefore, two fiscal years, June 30, 1907, to June 30, 1909, during which the company operated its road in West Virginia under the statutory rate. Evidence was introduced on behalf of the company showing the results according to its calculations. It was testified that the intrastate passenger receipts had been carefully ascertained. With respect to the operating expenses, it was said that for many years accounts had been kept for the purpose of separating the expenses incident to the freight and passenger traffic, respectively; that about 65 per cent. of these expenses could be directly assigned, and that the remaining 35 per cent., consisting of items common to both sorts of transportation, were divided between the passenger and freight traffic on the basis of engine miles, — this being deemed to be more equitable than the train-mile basis originally used, inasmuch as most of the freight was hauled by two engines. In practice, this method was assumed — in accordance with an early computation — to mean that 20 per cent. of such items should be assigned to the passenger
It was stated that the intrastate passenger receipts which had been $362,997.74 in the fiscal year 1906-7
In the receipts, as thus stated, there was omitted the revenue derived from the mail, express, news privileges and other items of passenger train earnings. Including this miscellaneous income, it appeared from the company's
Criticizing the methods of apportionment adopted by the company, the State presented on its part elaborate calculations for the purpose of showing the effect of the rate. These calculations were based upon a painstaking analysis made by the State's expert accountant of the receipts and expenses disclosed by the company's records and accounts. For this critical study there were selected the months of November, 1909, and May, 1910, which the State's witness testified were typical with respect to the passenger business of the fiscal year ending June 30, 1910. The examination was made of the traffic on the Pocahontas and Kenova divisions of the road, which contained over 90 per cent. of the total track mileage of the company in West Virginia, and the passenger traffic on which — according to passenger mileage — was stated to be over 97 per cent. of the whole. The testimony was that the results of the analysis of the traffic on these divisions could be deemed to be fairly representative of the entire passenger business. The receipts of the intrastate traffic were adjusted to the two cent fare basis; that is, according to the statutory rate as applied to the actual travel over the road. The State suggests that neither in its own calculations nor in those of the company was any account taken of the receipts from interstate passengers in West Virginia, but these were properly excluded. Smyth v. Ames, 169 U.S. 466, 541. The company had kept on its books separate accounts of the expenses of the freight and passenger business on the divisions above-mentioned, but the State's expert did not accept the company's distribution. For example, on the Pocahontas division, the books showed passenger expenses in November, 1909, amounting to $48,895.22; the witness for the State by his computations
By combining the results of the selected periods, it was shown that in the intrastate passenger business, according to the classification and apportionment adopted, the operating expenses and taxes consumed 97.4203 per cent. of the total income.
This, in brief, was the result of the elaborate analysis presented by the State. There is no reason to suppose that either the periods chosen or the methods used were unfavorable to the rate. Included in the passenger business were the items of mail, express, excess baggage, etc.; the State did not present calculations as to the net return upon these items separately considered. When the State's expert who testified that he had undertaken to
It is apparent, from every point of view that this record permits, that the statutory rate at most affords a very narrow margin over the cost of the traffic. It is manifestly not a case where substantial compensation is permitted and where we are asked to enter the domain of the legislative discretion; nor is it one in which it is necessary to determine the value of the property employed in the intrastate business. It is clear that by the reduction in rates the company is forced to carry passengers, if not at or below cost, with merely a nominal reward considering the volume of the traffic affected. We find no basis whatever upon which the rate can be supported and it must be concluded in the light of the principles governing the regulation of rates that the State exceeded its power in imposing it.
The judgment is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE PITNEY dissents.