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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 82, no. 2109: August 15, 1908

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August 15, 190S RECORD AND GUIDE 331 mm. ^H£iy^lB68. Devoted to Rej^LEstate.SuiLoijJb A,^iTE:eTURE,HousEHoiDDEeciiijTK)tf. Busit^Ess ai/dThemes ofCetJer^I IKtei^est. PRICE PER YEAR IN ADVANCE EIGHT DOLLARS Communications should be addressed to C. W. SWEET Publisfied Every Saturdap By THE RECORI> AND GUIDE CO. President, CLINTON W. SWEET Treasurer, P. W. DODGB Vice-Pres. Sc Genl. Mgr., H. W. DESMOND Secretary. F. T, MILLER Nos. 11 to 15 Bast 24tl> Street. Neir York City (Telephone. Madison Square, 4430 to 4433.) "Entered al Ihe Post Office at New York, N. Y., as second-cla.'is matter." Copyrighted. 190S, by The Record & Guide Co. Vol. LXXXII. AUGUST lo, 1908. No. 2109 EVIDENTLY no powers possessed by the Public Ser¬ vice Commission will be sufficient to settle the vexed question of transfers to and from tlie 59th street cars. The Commission can order transfers to be giveo. but the exe¬ cution of the order can be postponed indefinitely by litiga¬ tion; and in the mean time the business men and the travel¬ ing public will suffer from the effects of the withdrawal of customary means of travel. The business of Manhattan and the ways of living of its inhabitants have become adapted to the free issue of transfers. Their withdrawal from the 59th street service is serious enough in its consequences; and if similar withdrawals should follow In the case of other cross-town streets the whole retail business of the city would be disorganized, and many people could no longer live where and as they do. The situation is serious enough to warrant the interference of any public authority which has power to Interfere effectively, but where does such power reside? The legal settlement of the question as to whether the Belt Line Co. and the receivers of the Metropolitan Street Railway can afford to grant them will take so long that before it is settled all the unfortunate effects of the withdrawal will have been fully experienced. In fact, there is every reason to be¬ lieve that before any legal decision can be reached the ques¬ tion will settle itself by or through some kind of an agree¬ ment between the receivers and the Belt Line Company. If the present condition is contrary to the interest of the public it is no less contrary to the interest of the two railway cor¬ porations. The inconvenience suffered by the public means a loss of traffic to the two corporations larger than'their benefit from the greater fare. The Belt Line Company will find that it cannot earn, as an Independent railway, as much money as it received under its old iease; and the stock¬ holders will probably be persuaded in the end to accept a smaller rental. If such a result can be secured, it may con¬ stitute a step to the one adequate solution of the whole diffi¬ culty—that is, the reorganization of the Metropolitan system on a basis that will permit it to be operated with efficiency and without insolvency. Every interest concerned will be beneflted by such a result. Probably tbe time for such a reorganization has not yet come; but when the time does come the work of reorganization should be encouraged by the public authorities. The public interest will be best served by one street railway company operating all the sur¬ face lines in Manhattan, and an agreement should be reached whereby such a company would not be obliged to grant universal transfers. The question as to how the transfer privilege could be limited with least Inconvenience to the- puhlic and with most gain to the railroads should be care¬ fully studied by a group of traffic experts, representing both the Commission and the railways; and a system should be worked out as the result of this investigation. THERE is one important point connected with this ques¬ tion of transfers which does not receive enough atten¬ tion. It can, we believe, be demonstrated that the City Rail¬ way Company did not fail exclusively Decause of the trans¬ fers it was obliged to grant, or even because it was saddled with excessive fixed charges and rentals. It failed partly be¬ cause it couid no longer carry economically the enormous traffic which it was obliged to carry. The congestion on its cars became such that many passengers were enabled to ride free while the congestion in the streets was such that it could not get the full benefit of its equipment. If the com¬ pany could have continued to carry its passengers as economi¬ cally as formerly the reduction of the average fare to a little over 3 cents would not have been disastrous, because the smaller average fare would have been balanesd by the smaller average ride. The Metropolitan Street Railway system simply broke down of its own weight. It had been financed in the expectation that the earnings would continue to increase at the rate with which they had increased up to 1899, and such an expectation would have been justified, provided the outfit of the company had been competent to carry the trafRc eco¬ nomically. But the congestion in the streets was such that the operating department of the corporation was seriously and increasingly embarrassed. Of course, this embarrass¬ ment would have been less serious in case the company had not been obliged to issue so many transfers; but the in¬ creased number of transfers was fatal only because the pas¬ sengers who transferred crowded out others who might have paid. Had the company been able to handle the traffic eco¬ nomically, its income would have continued to increase in spite of the transfers. The point is of importance, because of its bearing upon the future rehabiliatiou of the company. In order to convert its service into a profitable business, and its organization into an efficient public servant, three tasks must be accomfilished. Its fixed charges must be scaled down and its earnings must be increased by a judicious abridg¬ ment of transfer privileges. Finally, some means must be obtained of developing and handling a larger volume of traffic. Something can be done in this respect by improved equip¬ ment and a better service during the middle of the day; hut the only way in which to carry a largely increased vol¬ ume of traffic will be iDy means of increased trackage. The fundamental difficulty with the street car system of Man¬ hattan turns upon the plan of the city, which fails to provide a sufficient number of thoroughfares along which traffic can easily and conveniently move. Not until some successful attempt is made to improve the street plan of Manhattan will there be any diminution of the congestion on the surface railways. IN connection with the improvement of the street plan of Manhattan, a recent scheme, submitted by Mr. Charles R. Lamb, deserves attention. This sclicme, while it is only a collection of ideas that have often been submitted, is pecul¬ iarly interesting because it combines more advantages, with fewer objections on the side of expense, than any similar plan yet suggested. Its object is to provide thoroughfares across Manhattan which will afford means of travel for the new traffic originating in the increasing population of Long Island and New Jersey. He proposes, consequently, to widen Christopher street and extend it to Union Square, to cut a diagonal avenue through from the terminus of the Williams¬ burgh Bridge to Astor Place, and to open up another new avenue to the south from the same terminus to the inter¬ section of Canal and Chrystie streets, where it would join with a direct outlet from the Manhattan Bridge. The Man¬ hattan Bridge would also obtain another outlet by the widen¬ ing and prolongation of Franklin street. The intersection of Franklin street and Broadway would become an extremely important point, because at this place a widened and length¬ ened back street would start northward and be connected both with Sixth and Seventh avenues. If the reader will consult a map published in a recent Sunday issue of the "Times" his eye will tell him at a glance the enormous ad¬ vantages of these new avenues. They would provide not only new and useful routes of travel for teams and motor cars, but they would enormously simplify the laying out of new subways. The traffic of Manhattan would be relieved of half of the existing congestion as soon as the plan was car¬ ried out. Many parts of Manhattan, wiiich are now neglected, would be made available for business, and the increase in the assessed value of real estate would be an abundant com¬ pensation for the cost of the improvements. The .plan has the advantage, as already mentioned, of being comparatively economical. None of the avenues which are widened or cut through is improved with fall modern buildings or is lined with very high-priced rea! estate; and we have no doubt that when the local government is obliged to deal with this ques¬ tion of street improvement it will be obliged to adopt some such scheme as this. Of course, the expense, even of these economical streets, would run up into the hundreds of mil¬ lions, and the city has no way of raising the money under existing laws. But the work must be taken up eventuaily, or else the economic development of the Greater New York will be gravely compromised.