Police Restrictions and Travelling Facilities.
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
By Douglas Mackenzie.
During the discussion on Mr. Worby Beaumont's paper at the Society of Motor Omnibus Engineers, I spoke of the effect of Police action on the travelling facilities of the London public. I pointed out that, in the lirst place, the Police regulations with regard to omnibus bodies had .resulted in the standardisation of a particular type which it was futile to argue would necessarily prove to be the best. The regulations relate specially to the capacity of _the omnibus, there being a definite regulation that the number of seats provided should never exceed 16 inside, and 18 outside, making a total of 34. I pointed out that a slight increase in the length of the body would provide accommodation for an extra passenger on each side in the interior, and four more outside, the 18 inside and 22 outside making a total seating accommodation of 40 instead of 34. In point of fact, omnibuses had been constructed to carry this number, though they had not actually been put into service before body sizes were limited. There is no doubt that such vehicles could have been made to have weighed no more than the present omnibuses, and in which the weight would have been so much better distributed that it would have necessitated no increase in the strength of the chassis, or in the driving power of the vehicle. It is true that there are many times of the day when the present .34-seaters are not by any means full; but, if the vehicles could have been made with no greater weight, but could have accommodated an extra six passengers during the rush hours, it would. have made all the difference in the .earning power, as the fares of the extra six passengers during these rush hours would have been all additional
profit. I think, therefore, that readers of " THE COMMERCIAL, MaroE " will agree with me when I state that the effect of these regulations has been to impose undue hardship upon the operating companies, and to account partly for the absence of dividends.
During the course of my remarks, I also urged that the Police ought to proceed on more businesslike lines, and that they should have notified the operating companies that the vehicles they were then purchasing would not come up to the standard of silence that it was proposed to institute, and that, therefore, it was not advisable to make contracts for these vehicles. I am justified in stating that the Police led the companies to believe that the chassis they were purchasing at the beginning of 1906 fulfilled their requirements, in respect of silence and general suitability for London service, and that the companies were distinctly misled into making contracts for the supply of the chassis; contracts were made in the belief that the Police would accept them, provided they came up to the standard of -silence of the sample vehicles already at work. The companies found out later, that a very high standard of silence was being imposed, and they are now insisting that under new contracts the makers shall pass the vehicles through the Police tests before they are accepted and the account passed for payment, but, at the same time, the Noise Committee—a committee of three, selected because, apparently, two have no knowledge of the subject, or, at all events, because they have no connection with the department which licenses motor omnibuses.-is now testing every vehicle under circumstances quite different from those of actual service, and is arbitrarily refusing many vehicles which are identical with the others that they pass. It is impossible that any human ears can be trained to the necessary degree of sensitiveness to enable their owners to detect the difference between the amount of noise made by the silent vehicles which are now submitted to them, especially when all are of the same make as frequently happens. In my concluding remarks at the discussion to which I have already alluded, I stated that the " travelling public had lost from the want of facilities which the companies were prepared to give them, and were out of pocket to the extent of about £ioo,000 owing to the action of the Metropolitan Police." My figures were challenged at this meeting, and I was bound to confess that the estimate had not been made with the care that the importance of the question deserved, and I have, therefore, taken some considerable trouble 10 arrive at a fairly accurate calculation of the
loss that the public has sustained from this cause. I find, to my surprise, that the actual loss is practically double that which I stated at the meeting in question. It is true that this calculation brings in another month, but even then it shows that my rough estimate was considerably short of the mark. " THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR " has supplied regular statistics of the number of motor omnibuses in commission in the Metropolis, and the Editor has been good enough to allow me to examine the sources from which these figures are supplied, and to compare them with the information which I possess, and I am convinced by them that these figures are as reliable as, humanly speaking, they can be made. I have plotted the recorded totals of motorbuses on squared paper, and against each of the vertical lines will be found the date on which the census was taken, whilst the horizontal lines each represent art increase of 20 vehicles. As a rule, the census was taken at intervals of a fortnight, but, occasionally, owing to holidays or other special circumstances, an interval of three weeks elapsed, whilst the early figures, for the short period during which "THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR " published 00 statistic, have been easy to ascertain, as the number of vehicles was then exceedingly few. By joining up the points of intersection of these lines, I obtain an irregular line showing the number of motor omnibuses in commission at any particular moment, and it will be observed that this line approximates to a hyperbolic curve for a considerable distance, after which it falls away, at first gradually, but much more rapidly later. The extension of the hyperbolic curve • is shown as a full line, and the asymptote of the hyperbola is shown as a dotted line.
The fact that the early figures follow a hyperbolic curve is extremely interesting, as there is a certain property of the hyperbola from which we can learn a very interesting fact. The peculiarity of this curve is that it gradually approaches to an inclined line, but never actually touches or crosses it. This line is called the asymptote, and, when squared paper is used in this particular way, the asymptote gives a definite rate of production, to which the motoromnibus manufacturers are gradkally approaching but are never likely to exceed. If, therefere, we can determine the asymptote, we shall learn what was the maximum output of the motor-omnibus manufactories, assuming, of course, that no sudden and • unforeseen extensions or restrictions interfered with the law that we have discovered from our
statistics. The asymptote strikes the base line at28th January, 1906, and at one year from that date has reached the figure 1,072, showing that the maximtun output of the factories that were supplying motor omnibuses was approaching a maximum of 1,072 omnibuses per annum prior to the time when the Police restrictions began to make their influence felt.
The area lying between the extension of the hyperbolic curve and the irregular line which indicates the actual number of omnibuses in commission has been shaded in the diagram. In the body of the diagram is another shaded space of exactly the same area as that between the two curves. This shaded area will tell us the actual travelling facilities which we have been denied by the action of the Metropolitan Police. This is a scientific and accurate method of gauging this loss. The vertical lines represent the number of omnibuses, and the horizontal lines represent days, so that the multiplication of the one by the other gives us omnibus-days, and the shaded area represents omnibus-days lost to travelling Londoners. This actual area represents 40,397 omnibus-days, and, to make it clearer, the rectangular shaded area represents 203 buses on the vertical scale and 199 days on the horizontal one.
The only -commercial results that have been issued as to the takings of motor omnibuses are contained, in the " Vanguard " report which was issued in October last, and which gives the particulars of the working of that company's
omnibuses up to 3oth June, 1906. It was possible, by the analysis undertaken by " TUE COMMERCIAL MOTOR," to
extract from this report that the..average,takings.per omnibus mile were 15.01 pence, that the average annual mileage per omnibus in commission was 28,750. Divide this by the
number of days in the year,.'and we learn that the average daily mileage per bus owned was 78. No doubt many people will be astonished to find that this average figure is so low, as they would be under the impression that motor omni buses worked from yo to 130 miles per day. This is quite correct, but an unduly big proportion was required for teaching, and in the early days of motor omnibuses such a large number were undergoing repairs or alterations, that the daily mileage over all the omnibuses in commission comes out at this low figure. It is also probable that some readers will think that 15 pence per mile is too high a figure at which to rake the earnings, but the same critics will also agree that an average mileage of 78i miles per day is too low, and so the net result will come out the same, if we were to lower the earnings per mile and increase the mileage. The figures employed are, however, those obtained from actual service, though they date some time back, and the same total results are obtained in cractice nowadays with larger mileage and reduced takings per mile.
Reverting to the number of 40,397 omnibus-days sacrificed to the susceptibilities of the Noise Committee, and multiplying that figure by 781, we find that the number of omnibus miles sacrificed was 3,181,563. Taking the earnings at 15 pence and excluding the refinement of a hundredth of a penny, we find that the fares lost to the operating companies amount to £198,848. It cannot be "argued that I have made this figure excessive, in fact rather the .reverse, for, had makers succeeded in " palming off." on the London companies all the chassis that they were preparing for the English market, the curve would have risen very much more sharply. The curve only takes into account the accepted makes which were already being delivered. Further, no notice has been taken of the extra seats that would have been provided on motor omnibuses, if the Police had not rigidly restricted them to a total of 34 seats. ' It is rather interesting to study the critical points in this curve, and to find out exactly what they mean. For instance, it will be noticed that the actual number of omnibuses drops away from the theoretical curve at the beginning of March, 1906. This was the time when the i6h.p Germain omnibuses were proving 'unequal to the heavy London work, and were being withdrawn from service. The depression reaches a maximum at the beginning of April, 1906, when Police restrictions were beginning to be felt, but it recovers to some considerable extent by the 16th April because all the companies pushed out as many omnibuses as possible for Easter week. During the next month, we have the fact that the Rapid Road Transit Company came to grief, and, also, that the London Motor Omnibus Company temporarily withdrew its Scheibler omnibuses in order to make some special alterations to meet the wishes of the Police. This was to some extent compensated by the fact that some of the companies were beginning to take delivery of Lacoste-Battmann chassis, and that the 34h.p. Straker and Bussing omnibuses were being delivered to the London General Omnibus Company, but the sharp drop away that occurs on 28th May, 1906, cannot be accounted for in any other way than by the Police restrictions. A further " corner " will be noticed on 1st October, 1906, and this was the time when the Police apparently refused to pass any further Straker-Squire omnibuses unless certain alterations were made to comply with their requirements. A period of several weeks occurred during which no new Straker-Squire omnibuses were got into service, and the line remains almost horizontal. ft, however, takes a sharp upward turn after the end of the year, due to the fact that the London Road Car Company was getting Straker-Squire
omnibuses through with the Morse or the Renold silent chains and other improvements. These indications will show that squared paper records bring out in a particularly striking manner the different influences at work on the travelling facilities accorded to the public. In conclusion, it is necessary to point out that the Police have had a very difficult task. Great agitation has been conducted against motor omnibuses by those who are prejudiced against them. It has been obvious that the prejudice has been almost entirely on the part of those who. can afford their own motors, and who are unable to realise the enormous advantages to the less well-to-do, and the business population, that has accrued from the advent of improved travelling facilities. The Police were, nevertheless, bound to take notice of the agitation, inasmuch as it arose out of what might have grown to be a real nuisance
in the shape of noise and smell. They have invariably carried out their arduous duties with courtesy, and, whilst many of the operating companies and manufacturers feet the hardship of the high standard of silence imposed, they are bound to admit that-the Police have never asked for art impossibility. Just complaint may, none the less, reasonably be made that the Police did not allow a little more time to elapse before they imposed such a high standard, or that they did not gradually, instead of suddenly, increase the standard of silence, so as not to be unduly hard on a new and growing industry of such wide and general benefit_