Southern Railway Company v. North Carolina

PETITIONER: Southern Railway Company
RESPONDENT: North Carolina
LOCATION: Cumberland Hospital

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 376 US 93 (1964)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1964 / Jan 15, 1964
DECIDED: Feb 17, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Southern Railway Company v. North Carolina

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1964 in Southern Railway Company v. North Carolina

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1964 in Southern Railway Company v. North Carolina

Earl Warren:

Number 74, Southern Railway Company, Appellant, versus North Carolina et al., and number 93, United States et al., versus North Carolina et al.

Mr. Joyner.

William T. Joyner:

Mr. Chief Justice if it pleases the Court.

I expect to discuss the substantial quality of the evidence, which supports the judgment conclusion of the commission, that public convenience and necessity permit the discontinuance of the trains in question.

The commission below, a court and each party filing a brief has I think cited the case in Colorado against the United States as stating clearly the basic law applicable here.

That was a case involving the discontinuance of a line, intrastate line of railroad under Section 18 of the Transportation Act, but the Court there said in substance that the substantial problem was the balancing of the needs of the community and individuals in a community against the burden on commerce and the commission is to balance those needs.

The commission in this case has balanced the needs and has made its decision.

I think we'll also agree that the point then presented is the question as to whether the evidence, the relevant evidence is such that a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support the conclusion.

That's a consolidated Edison case which they cite and I accept that as a governing principle.

On the question of the burden, the facts are undisputed, that is the question of the loss Mr. Ginnane has stated that, there is a burden which the commission found exceeded $90,000 per year, but that would be saved by taking the trains off.

May I comment here that the figures which are recited and the figures which we quote as to money and losses, expenses are computed on the out of pocket expenses, not the way the expenses for the national figures, passenger figures are computed, there is nothing in there for maintenance of right of way, nothing for overhead.

It's wages of train crew, cost of fuel, oiling and grease, the money that it costs to turn the wheels over.

And as Mr. Ginnane said yesterday, the total passenger receipts are less than one-forth of the wages of the train crew.

But for the purpose of my argument, I emphasize the number of passengers and the diminishing passenger travel, because it indicates that the passengers are leaving the railroad, and that indicates that there are available other adequate means of transportation and that people deliberately choose those means rather than the railroad, and that is in itself substantial evidence of the lack of public convenience and necessity, of the lack of the need for the travel.

I think a most significant figure with respect to my portion of the argument is the breakdown of the figure given yesterday that the passengers had diminished in 12 years from an average of 77 per trip to an average of 20, but the breakdown of the 20 or stating another average is very important.

I suggest that one of the most significant things in this case is the undisputed fact that the average passenger per train mile, the average of passengers per train mile is just seven.

That this train which has a combination coach, a day coach and all the time a Pullman most of the time, on the average mile of haul has an average of seven passengers.

Earl Warren:

(Inaudible) this train travel between those two points.

William T. Joyner:

On the two parts, it takes merely four hours.

Earl Warren:

Now what is the distance?

William T. Joyner:

129 miles, but as I'm going to get to next in my argument, the real point in controversy is the point of Durham, because when we begin --


William T. Joyner:

D-U-R-H-A-M, the city of Durham North Carolina.

Oh yes.

William T. Joyner:

Because when we begin to analyze and get ready to balance the convenience and necessity, I suggest that we look at the passengers and how they evidenced the need what their travel is and what would be their situation if the train is taken off.

Now that is stated very clearly indeed in the brief of appellees and they say on page 22 of that brief, the principal public convenience presently affected by the trains arises from the interconnecting service at Greensboro with the north-south trains on Southern's main line, so as to furnish convenient overnight sleeper service to New York and other east coast cities is inescapable if consideration is given to the entire record.

The evidence on this part is clear.

It is undisputed and it is shown at no less than 30 places in the record.

We concede that.

I think at this time it might be well for me to refer again to the map that was before the Court yesterday, it's in volume one of the transcript, page 79.