The petition, presented by many Eastern rail-roads, against the new I. C. C. "flat rate" for passenger miles has intimate bearing upon the existence of the railroads themselves. The contention of these lines, simply put, is that the added volume of passengers would not by any means put them in the black, but might very well drive them further in the red.
The I. C. C., in reducing rates on a nation-wide basis, has had the laudable purpose of attempting to save the railroads and make them more competitive with other forms of transportation. The railroads, of course, desire exactly the same thing. They agree in principle that the only "out" for them is to reduce rates. However, very reasonably, they desire a compromise rate between the old schedule of 3.6 cents a mile and the proposed slash to 2 cents a mile. The suggested compromise of 2.5 cents a mile is sensible, for too drastic action at this time may deliver the coup de grace instead of being restorative.
The reasons for the petition may be found in the somewhat peculiar situation of Eastern lines generally. Their greatest carrying burden is over expensive short hauls, a major proportion of their charges are extremely high. Since the task of the I. C. C. is one of reconstruction, rather than destruction ,the Commission would adopt a sensible course if they listened to the pleas of the most interested parties, and adopt the compromise as a test measure for a limited period of time. In matters of such importance to the railroads and to the public, the Commission should make haste slowly and not glorify unintelligent uniformity.