Will the "Jitneys" Come to London?
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Many American Tramways are being Seriously Affected by Touring Cars Carrying Passengers at a Standard Charge of One " Nickel " or "Jitney " Per Journey.
Local passenger transport throughout the United States is at the present moment undergoing a most interesting period of its evolution. At the present time, there are being placed on the roads of the principal cities, in increasing numbers, what are eatled"Jitneys. These are actually passenger-carrying petrol vehicles, very varied in their description: but consieting in the main of ordinary touring cars. They traverse certain specified routes, plying for hire, and making a uniform charge for each passenger of one nickel, or five cents, per journey. For this sum the word " Jitney " is the slang term, hence the name given to the new enterprise, although this stage, which is evidently a transitory one, and will eventually lead, we think, to the adoption of motor omnibuses operating on lines similar to those now firmly establiehed in our own cities and towns, was only reached about six months ago. The situation which has arisen, as a result of the successful application of the newer form of conveyance, is causing considerable anxiety to those interested in the financial prospects of the U.S.A. tramway companies. One such company, indeed, complains of a reduction in receipts, as compared with a corresponding period of one year ago, of no less than 30 per cent.
For the time being, the majority of the cars in use are ordinary touring cars, and in many cases are the oiroperty of people otherwise unable to afford the upkeep of 'a car, but who by this means, are not only ible to satisfy their desires in that respect, but to derive considerable profit in addition. These cars are listinguished by route signs, isually affixed to the windshield, ogether with a large figure 5—five lents. Probably half the cars emaloyed are five-seater Fords, and it s stated that the running expenses if these amount to 24dollars a day, iverage receipts being 15 dollars Luring the same period ; this latter igure, of course, varies consider The customary length of the ourneys undertaken is about 2.4 cues; when the distance exceeds his, and is up to five miles, it has ieen found better to use larger cars apable of carrying seven or more ; atterly, larger-sized buses built up II commercial-vehicle chassis have leen utilized, although even the yclecar has not escaped attention. Such is the importance of the lovement that many manufacturers are now marketing special "Jitney" chassis. A typical example is that shown in an illustration on p.p.go 214. The chassis often employed is -the standard Studebaker one-ton commercial-vehicle machine. This is fitted with a single-deck bus body, capable of seating 14 people in addition to the driver, with pay-asyou-enter aide door, so arranged that access or egress on the part of passengers is only possible when the driver revolves his seat.
The demand for service is continuous throughout the day, commencing in the morning with the early-starting work-people, followed by clerks and minor officials, then professional men, and afterwards ladies, on shopping bent, and so on throughout the day up to about 7.30 in the evening, when, as a rule, the "Jitneys " retire.
Naturally, with the prospect of their revenues' decreasing in anything like the proportions already suffered by some, the tramway companies are straining every nerve in an effort to restrain their competitors. Owing to the peculiarities of procedure usual in the States, they are able in a good many cases, to enlist the aid of the authorities in their obstructive measures. Although their success differs coneiderably according to the State in which they operate' they are generally able to obtain the legalising of statutes involving the payment by "Jitney" owners of subsidies, bonds, or licence fees, more or less excessive, according to the influence possessed by the existing companies. Although this policy has not succeeded, to any great degree, in preventing the advent of newcomers' if is undoubtedly having the effect of delaying the inevitable development On standard lines involving the use of large vehicles similar to those to which we are in this country accustomed.
As may be imagined, services of this free-lance nature give rise to all kinds of incidents and to more or less irregular procedures. Their very existence is only rendered possible by the fact that the American authorities as a whole seem to raise no objection to the issuing of licences. It seems to be rather Ft case, so far as we can ascertain, of the regulations stipulating that the authorities shell licence, rather than may, as is the case in our own country.
The very fact of the success of the " Jitney " proves that they meet a popular demand for some adequate alternative to the all-popular tram
car in North America,. That efficiency, or indeed the safety of the public, will not be properly safeguarded in the absence of careful preliminary examination and subsequent compulsory maintenance, goes without saying. There are, of course, other undesirable features in connection with this operation of "Jitneys."
Such services cannot, in the same manner, ever become established in England under the circumstances which rule here at present. The "Jitneys " will not come to England. Licences are, in all conscience, difficult enough to obtain here from the authorities, who are principally concerned with conserving the monopoly of the municipally owned tram, even when the applicant is proposing a service of high-grade modern commercial vehicles. Application to operate a more or. less undefined class of public service with a machine, which may, apparently, be of any type or quality, will not get very far in Great Britain. The nearest approach to it has been the licensing by certain of the smaller local authorities of machines of unreputed brand for use as taxicabs. There the parallel ceases, and if-is not a very exact one, although "Jitney" and taxi do occasionally interchange for short periods. The " Jitney " will disappear. in America, in all probability, when the motorbus comes into its own as it has here and in other great European cities. Perhaps the nearest • analogy to such unusual service is that peculiar to London in the form of the now almoSt obsolete pirate horsed-bus. The driver and conduetor of the latter, however, were not immune from charges of dishonesty, and although the lack of euphony in the name Of this American interloper almost suggests operation not of the strictest kind, we in this office at any rate, have no proof that their owners are other" than honourable men. We presume that the definite. limit of the fare which. is settled by the very name given to the machine itself, is the surest guarantee Of fairly honest operation.
The development is an interesting one. It is an intermediate stage of the final adoption of the public,service stage carriage. Its advent was unnecessary here, as the motorbus arrived, a decade before America allowed itself to believe there could be any effective rival to the tramcar.