Cleveland v. Cleveland Elec. Ry. Co.
201 U.S. 529 (1906)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Cleveland v. Cleveland Elec. Ry. Co., 201 U.S. 529 (1906)

Cleveland v. Cleveland Electric Railway Company

No. 183

Argued February 27, 28, 1906

Decided April 9, 1906

201 U.S. 529

Syllabus

In construing municipal ordinances dealing with important matters such as extensions of street railway franchises, it may reasonably be presumed that no provision escaped attention or was misunderstood, and, while a mistake might occur in one ordinance, it will not be supposed that the mistake occurred in four ordinances dealing with the same subject.

Ordinances granting an extension to a consolidated street railway corporation possessing franchises expiring at different times, on conditions involving great expense to the corporation and resulting in substantial benefits to the public as to transfers for single fares and relating to the entire system, as well as the extensions granted, and providing that the right granted terminate with the then existing grants of the main line at a specified date later than that of termination of some of the franchises, amount, on the acceptance by the company and compliance with the conditions, to a contract within the protection of the impairment clause of the Constitution extending the various franchises to that date, the period, in this case of four years, not being an unreasonable one in view of the substantial benefits accruing to the public.

Cleveland v. Cleveland City Railway Co.,194 U. S. 517, followed as to the power of the City Council of Cleveland to pass ordinances diminishing the rate of fare on street railways in view of the contracts contained in ordinances heretofore passed in regard to street railways.

Page 201 U. S. 530

Bill in equity to enjoin the enforcement of an ordinance of the City of Cleveland, passed January 11, 1904, purporting to grant to the Forest City Railway Company the right to maintain and operate a street railroad upon streets alleged to be covered by grants to the appellee, not yet expired, and which, it is contended, constitute contracts, the obligation of which is impaired by the ordinance of January 11, 1904, in violation of the contract clause of the Constitution of the United States.

A preliminary injunction was granted, which, upon final hearing, was made perpetual. 135 F. 368. And this appeal was taken. The case was heard upon bill and answer, and an outline of the facts is as follows:

The Cleveland Electric Railway Company is a consolidated company, organized under the laws of Ohio in 1893. None of its constituent companies had at that time any rights in the streets in controversy. In 1903, the company acquired by purchase the lines of railway and the rights, privileges, and franchises of the Cleveland City Railway Company. The latter company was constituted of the Woodland Avenue & West Side Street Railway Company and the Cleveland City Cable Railway Company, each of these companies being itself a consolidated company.

The Woodland Avenue Railway Company, before its consolidation with the West Side Street Railroad Company, was the successor by purchase, in 1885, of the Kinsman Street Railroad Company, its rights, property, and franchises, which, by the terms of the consolidation of the Woodland Avenue and West Side Companies, in 1886 vested in the Woodland Avenue & West Side Railroad Company.

The rights, privileges, and franchises of the Kinsman Street Railroad were derived from the city by an ordinance dated August 25, 1879, which granted to the company and to its successors and assigns the right to maintain and operate a double track street railroad in the City of Cleveland,

"commencing on Superior Street at the intersection of Water street, thence through Superior Street and around the southwest corner of

Page 201 U. S. 531

Monumental Square to Ontario Street; thence through Ontario Street to and through a portion of Broadway and Woodland Avenue (formerly Kinsman Street); thence through said Woodland Avenue to Madison Avenue."

It was provided that "the authority, privileges, and franchises . . . granted and renewed to said company, its successors and assigns" should continue for a period of twenty-five years from the twentieth day of September, 1879. The expiration of the grant was therefore fixed at September 20, 1904. The ordinance was accepted by the Kinsman Company.

On May 14, 1883, the city passed an ordinance entitled

"An Ordinance to Permit the Woodland Avenue Railway Company to Extend its Lines of Railway on Woodland Avenue from the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Crossing to Corwin Street."

The ordinance was accepted, and the line built as an extension of the tracks built by the Kinsman Company.

Prior to the year 1885, the two companies which formed the Woodland Avenue & West Side Street Railroad Company were independent lines, with independent franchises from the city, one operating on the west side of Cuyahoga River, the other upon the east side, and running to the southeasterly portion of the city. There was no interchange of traffic between them, and at the time of the consolidation, the West Side Company had the right by ordinance from the city to operate its road for twenty-five years from February, 1883 -- namely, to February, 1908.

Under the laws of Ohio, the city council had the power to fix the terms and conditions upon which railways might be consolidated, and, in pursuance of the statute, the companies notified the council of their proposed consolidation, and thereupon the council passed an ordinance February 1, 1885, giving the consent of the city to the consolidation upon the following conditions:

"The said consolidated company is to carry passengers through, without change of cars, by running of the cars through from the workhouse on the line of the Woodland Avenue Railway

Page 201 U. S. 532

Company to the point on the West Side Railroad where Gordon Avenue crosses Lorain Street, and, when practicable in the judgment of the council, to do likewise on the branches of the consolidated lines, and that for a single fare from any point to any point on the lines and branches of the consolidated road no greater charge than five cents shall be collected, and that tickets at the rate of eleven for fifty cents or twenty-two for one dollar shall at all times be kept for sale on cars by conductors."

It was provided that the ordinance should take effect after its legal publication and the filing of the written acceptance by the companies of the terms thereof. The written acceptance was filed and the terms of the ordinance complied with.

The line fixed in the ordinance covers the lines of the Kinsman Street Railroad Company and the lines referred to in the ordinance of January 11, 1904, sought to be enjoined.

No date for the expiration of the grant was fixed, but it was provided that the consolidated company should be liable to all the liabilities, conditions, and penalties to which the several companies were liable.

On April 8, 1887, an ordinance was passed authorizing the consolidated company to lay an additional track on Franklin Avenue between Pearl Street and the westerly line of Franklin Circle, and to occupy and operate said extension as therein provided, but on the express condition that no increase of fare should be charged by said railroad company or any part of its main line or said extension, and so that but one fare, not to exceed five cents, should be charged between any points on said company's main line or extensions. The ordinance contained the following provision: "And the grant here granted shall terminate with the present grant of the main line, to-wit, tenth day of February, 1908." And it is alleged that the "main line" referred to includes the line operated on Woodland Avenue (formerly Kinsman Street) and originally granted to the Kinsman Street Railroad Company by the ordinance of August, 1879.

Page 201 U. S. 533

On August 12, 1887, an ordinance was passed authorizing the consolidated company to lay and extend a track in Franklin Avenue, from Kentucky street to Waverly Avenue. In this ordinance there was a prohibition of increase of fare "between any points on said company's main line or extension," and that the right granted should "terminate with the present grant of the main line, to-wit, on the tenth day of February, 1908."

Prior to March, 1889, the lines of the railway of the Woodland Avenue & West Side Street Railway Company were operated by horse power, and there came a demand for more rapid means of transit afforded by electrical equipment, and on March 22, 1889, and, it is alleged, to secure such means of transit, the city granted to the consolidated company the right to use electricity in operating its entire line of street railroad, as the same then existed, with any and all extensions that might thereafter be made thereto. It was provided that the grant should be in force from the time of its legal publication and written acceptance by the company. The ordinance recited that

"said company shall have the right to maintain and operate its present line and any and all extensions until the expiration of the present grant of said company, to-wit, the tenth of February, 1908."

The written acceptance was filed, and, it is alleged, through and by compliance with its terms the consolidated company, and the Cleveland Electric Railway Company as its successor, acquired the absolute right by contract to continue to maintain and operate its line of road as it then existed and all extensions thereof up to the tenth day of February, 1908. This is denied. It is alleged that the appellee expended not less than the sum of $700,000 in equipping its road with electricity as a motive power.

On June 20, 1892, the city passed an ordinance authorizing the consolidated company to lay an additional track on Kinsman Street, thereby making its line on said street a double track railway. The point of beginning was designated to be "at the intersection of its main tracks." There was a provision for termination on the tenth of February, 1908, as in the

Page 201 U. S. 534

other ordinances. And there was the same provision in an ordinance passed August 1, 1892, authorizing an extension of tracks on Lorain Street. Again, in an ordinance of the twenty-second of August, authorizing the construction and maintenance of a suitable and necessary line of feed wires upon certain streets. An ordinance of October 17, 1892, empowering the company to lay an additional track on Woodland Avenue between certain streets, contained the same provision. On July 17, 1893, an ordinance was passed authorizing the Cleveland City Railway Company, which had become the owner of the rights of the Woodland Avenue & West Side Street Railroad Company, to lay an additional track upon South Woodland Avenue. This ordinance contained a provision as to the operation of the tracks in connection with the other lines, the kind and number of cars to be used and the manner of running and intervals of time to be run, and the sprinkling of tracks. The grant was to remain in force until the twenty-sixth of January, 1910. February 19, 1894, an ordinance was passed granting permission to the Cleveland Electric Railway and the Cleveland City Railway Company to build a cross-town road on Willson Avenue. It was provided that the grant was to continue in force until the first day of July, 1914.

Of this ordinance the bill alleges:

"This grant shall be in force until the first day of July, 1914."

"Your orator shows that the grant under which the Cleveland Electric Railway Company was, at the time of the passage of the last-mentioned ordinance, operating, as to several of its lines, expires on the first of July, 1914, and that the obligations imposed upon the Cleveland City Railway Company by virtue of said ordinance, in this paragraph set forth, are continuing obligations, requiring of your orator the performance of all and singular the conditions of said ordinance, including the issuing of transfers from its other lines and accepting transfers from its said Willson Avenue line, up to the first day of July, 1914, whereby your orator submits that the council thereby not only granted, but required, of said the Cleveland City Railway Company,

Page 201 U. S. 535

the operation of its entire system of railway up to the first day of July, 1914."

"Your orator further shows that Willson Avenue and the lines of road therein constructed are intersected by both Kinsman Street and Woodland Avenue (formerly Kinsman Street). "

Page 201 U. S. 537

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