Motion to Stay, Mandate Granted Jan. 31, 1944. See 321 U.S. 745 , 64 S.Ct. 517.
Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
Mr. John J. Broderick, of Yonkers, N.Y., for appellant City of Yonkers.
Mr. Horace M. Gray, of New York City, for appellant, John W. Tooley, Jr.
Mr. J. Stanley Payne, of Washington, D.C., for appellees United States and Interstate Commerce Com'n.
Mr. Harold H. McLean, of New York City, for appellee New York Cent. R. Co.
Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Interstate Commerce Act confers upon the Interstate Commerce Commission authority to issue certificates [320 U.S. 685, 686] of public convenience and necessity allowing any carrier subject to the Act to abandon 'all or any portion' of its line of railroad. Sec. 1(18), ( 19), (20), 49 U.S.C. 1(18), (19), (20), 49 U.S.C.A. 1(18-20), 24 Stat. 379, 41 Stat. 477, 478. But the Act also provides that that authority of the Commission 'shall not extend' to the abandonment 'of street, suburban, or interurban electric railways, which are not operated as a part or parts of a general steam railroad system of transportation.' Sec. 1(22), 49 U.S. C. 1(22), 49 U.S.C.A. 1(22).
The New York Central Railroad Co. filed an application with the Commission for a certificate under 1(18-20) of the Act authorizing it to abandon an electric branch line extending 3.1 miles from Van Cortlandt Park Junction, New York City, to Getty Square, Yonkers, New York. This line was constructed in 1888 by a predecessor company for the purpose of developing suburban business between Yonkers and New York City. The line was electrified in 1926 with the hope that the suburban business would increase. It is now a physical part of the New York Central's Putnam Division with which it connects at Van Cortlandt Park Junction. The Putnam Division in turn connects with the Hudson Division which is part of the main line of the New York Central from New York City to Chicago. The Hudson Division follows the east bank of the Hudson River through Yonkers to Albany. The Putnam Division extends north from Sedgwick Avenue and West 161st Street, New York City, through Yonkers to Brewster, New York. The Putnam Division lies east of, and is roughly parallel with, the Hudson Division. In the City of Yonkers the two divisions are about a mile apart. The electric line in question is between the Hudson and Putnam Divisions. Getty Square, its terminal in Yonkers, is .3 mile east of the Yonkers station on the Hudson Division. The New York Central system is for the most part operated by steam. Some portions of its lines are electrified, including the Hudson Division be- [320 U.S. 685, 687] tween New York City and Harmon, New York, and Harlem Division so far as White Plains, New York, the Putnam Division between Sedgwick Avenue and Van Cortlandt Park Junction, and the Yonkers line in question. With the exception noted, no part of the Putnam Division is electrified, its trains being operated by steam.
This Yonkers electric branch handles no freight, mail, express, or milk traffic and no industries are dependent on it for such service. Its traffic is exclusively passenger traffic, principally commuter travel between Getty Square and three other stations in Yonkers and Grand Central Station in New York City. The trains serving stations on this Yonkers electric branch do not go through to Grand Central Station on account of the congested condition of the main-line tracks funnelling into Grand Central Station. Accordingly, these trains run only from Getty Square to Van Cortlandt Park Junction and thence over the main line of the Putnam Division to the terminal at Sedgwick Avenue. Passengers from Yonkers to Grand Central Station must transfer to Hudson Division trains at either High Bridge or University Heights stations which are north of the Sedgwick Avenue Station. Tariffs of the New York Central provide for one-way, monthly-commutation, and other tickets usable between the stations in Yonkers and Grand Central Station. Time tables of the New York Central disclose the service on this electric branch. And its operating results are reflected in the accounts of the New York Central.
The trains running on this electric branch are composed of two, three or four cars. The trains are hauled not by a locomotive but by so-called multiple unit cars. The structure of the line is such that locomotives cannot be used on it. The trains on this electric branch proceed only to Getty Square, Yonkers, and not beyond.
The Commission though adverting to a number of the facts which we have mentioned did not address itself to [320 U.S. 685, 688] the question whether this electric branch line was or was not 'operated as a part or parts of a general steam railroad system of transportation' within the meaning of 1(22). The Commission did not undertake to review the evidence relevant to that issue. It made no findings respecting it. It authorized the abandonment on the grounds that continued operation would impose 'an undue and unnecessary burden' upon the New York Central and upon interstate commerce. 1 The Commission says that the question of its jurisdiction under 1(22) was neither presented in limine nor urged in the briefs, in the exceptions to the examiner's report, or in the oral arguments. It was, however, presented in petitions for reconsideration which the Commission denied without opinion.
This suit to enjoin the order of the Commission, brought before a District Court of three judges, 38 Stat. 219, 220, 28 U.S.C. 47, 28 U.S. C.A. 47, was initiated by the Public Service Commission of New York, the City of Yonkers, and a committee of Yonkers commuters. 2 The jurisdiction of the Commission was challenged before the District Court. And that objection which was overruled there (50 F.Supp. 497) has been renewed on the appeal which brings the case here. 28 U.S.C. 47a, 345, 28 U.S.C.A . 47a, 345.
The District Court in sustaining the order of the Commission, reviewed the evidence and concluded that the operation of this electric branch was 'intertwined with the operation of the system as a whole.' It relied especially on the fact that the bulk of the traffic on this electric branch transfers at High Bridge or University Heights [320 U.S. 685, 689] to the Hudson Division and that those transfers made it necessary for the New York Central to provide seats on the hudson Division trains for all the transferred Yonkers passengers for the remaining short run to Grand Central Station.
The Commission itself has noted that in the 'construction of these exclusion cluases great difficulty has been experienced, particularly in determining the roads properly classifiable as interurban electric railways.' Annual Report (1928), p. 80. That difficulty is apparent here by the division of opinion which exists in the Court whether this Yonkers branch is an 'interurban electric' railway which is 'operated as a part' of the New York Central system. 3 1(22). As stated by Mr. Justice Brandeis in United States v. Idaho, 298 U.S. 105, 109 , 56 S.Ct. 690, 692, the determination of what is included within the exemption of 1(22) involves a 'mixed question of fact and law.' Congress has not left that question exclusively to administrative determination; it has given the courts the final say. Id., 298 U.S. at page 109, 56 S.Ct. at page 692. It is settled that the aid of the Commission need not be sought before the jurisdiction of a court is invoked to enjoin violations of the provisions in question. Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Gulf, C. & S.F. Ry. Co., 270 U.S. 266 , 46 S.Ct. 263. And the fact that the Commission fails to make a finding on this jurisdictional question obviously does not preclude the reviewing court from making that determination initially. But we deem it essential in cases involving a review of orders of the Commission for the courts to decline to make that determination without the basic jurisdictional findings first having been made by the Commission. [320 U.S. 685, 690] The power of the Commission to control the abandonment of intrastate branches of interstate carriers stems from the power of Congress to protect interstate commerce from undue burdens or discriminations. Colorado v. United States, 271 U.S. 153 , 46 S.Ct. 452; Transit Commission v. United States, 284 U.S. 360 , 52 S.Ct. 157; Purcell v. United States, 315 U.S. 381 , 62 S.Ct. 709. And see United States v. Hubbard, 266 U.S. 474 , 45 S.Ct. 160, for an application of the doctrine of the Shreveport case (Houston, E. & W. T.R. Co. v. United States, 234 U.S. 342 , 34 S.Ct. 833) to the intrastate rates of interurban electric railroads. The exemptions contained in 1(22) do not necessarily reflect the lack of constitutional power to deal with the excepted phases of railroad enterprise. Underlying 1(22) is a Congressional policy of reserving exclusively to the states control over that group of essentially local activities. See H.Rep. No. 456, 66th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 18. We recently stated that the extension of federal control into these traditional local domains is a 'delicate exercise of legislative policy in achieving a wise accommodation between the needs of central control and the lively maintenance of local institutions.' Palmer v. Massachusetts, 308 U.S. 79, 84 , 60 S.Ct. 34, 36. In the application of the doctrine of the Shreveport case, this Court has required the Commission to show meticulous respect for the interests of the States. It has insisted on a 'suitable regard to the principle that, whenever the federal power is exerted within what would otherwise be the domain of state power, the justification of the exercise of the federal power must clearly appear.' Florida v. United States, 282 U.S. 194, 211 , 212 S., 51 S.Ct. 119, 124. In that case this Court set aside an intrastate rate order of the Commission because of the 'lack of the basic or essential findings required to support the Commission's order.' Id., 282 U.S. at page 215, 51 S.Ct. at page 125. The principle of the Florida case is applicable here. The question is not merely one of elaborating the grounds of decision and bringing into focus what is vague and obscure. See United States [320 U.S. 685, 691] v. Chicago, M. St. P. & P.R. Co., 294 U.S. 499 , 55 S.Ct. 462. Cf. Securities & Exchange Commission v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80 , 63 S.Ct. 454. Here as in the Florida case the problem is whether the courts should supply the requisite jurisdictional findings which the Commission did not make and to which it even failed to make any reference.