The enforcement of a city ordinance requiring each street car to
be operated by a motorman and a conductor, as against a company
seeking to substitute at less cost, cars run each by one man with
the aid of automatic safety and other operating devices, cannot be
declared an arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of police power in
the absence of a clear demonstration that the substitutes, thus
operated, would prove as safe and convenient for the public as cars
operated by two men. P. 251 U. S.
142 La. 573 affirmed.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Page 251 U. S. 170
MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1907, the City of Shreveport, Louisiana, passed an ordinance
requiring that each streetcar used in its streets should be
operated during designated hours by two persons, a conductor and a
motorman, and providing penalties for its violation.
The company, with street railway lines in the city, complied
with the requirement until in June, 1917, when it procured some
cars equipped for operation by one man and attempted to use them on
its "Allendale Line," with only a motorman in charge. Thereupon,
the plaintiff in error, hereinafter designated the defendant, who
was superintendent of the railway company, was arrested for
violation of the ordinance.
He defended by filing a motion to quash the affidavit for arrest
on the ground that the ordinance was unreasonable and arbitrary and
that the enforcement of it would deprive the company of its
property without due process of law and without compensation, in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the
The motion to quash was "referred to the merits," a full trial
was had, the motion was overruled, and the defendant, found guilty,
was sentenced to pay a fine. The judgment of the Supreme Court of
Louisiana affirming this judgment is before us for review on writ
The defense introduced evidence tending to show that the new
type of car used was so equipped that it could be operated by one
motorman with safety to the public as great as was secured by cars
theretofore used when operated by two men. The car, designated in
the record as "a one-man car," is described as so arranged that
passengers enter and leave it only at the front end, where the
motorman is placed. It is so equipped electrically that the
motorman must remain in an assigned
Page 251 U. S. 171
position necessary for the discharge of his duties and must
perform "some conscious act" at all times when the car is in
motion. If he fails in this "conscious act," the current is
automatically cut off, the brakes are applied in emergency, the
rail is sanded, and the door of the car is unlocked, and is so
adjusted that opening it lowers the step for use. There is
testimony tending to show economy in the use of such cars not only
in the saving of the wages of one man, but also in immunity from
It is apparent from this description derived from the record
that it presents for decision the question whether the ordinance of
1907, confessedly a valid exercise of the police power when it was
passed, was rendered arbitrary and invalid by the development of a
car which it is claimed can be operated by one man with as much
safety to the traveling public as, and with less cost than, was
secured by the two-man car in use at the time the ordinance was
passed and which was contemplated by it.
It is not necessary to decide in this case whether a valid
regulating ordinance can be rendered invalid by a change of
conditions which render it arbitrary and confiscatory (Lincoln
Gas & Electric Light Co. v. Lincoln, 250 U.
, 250 U. S. 269
Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U. S. 352
230 U. S. 473
Johnson v. Gearlds, 234 U. S. 422
234 U. S. 426
Perring v. United States, 232 U.
, 232 U. S. 481
Municipal Gas Co. v. Public Service Commission,
89, 95, 97, and Castle v. Mason,
91 Ohio St. 296, 303),
for the claim that such a change of condition had arisen in the
case is stoutly disputed by the city authorities.
While, on the record before us, it might be plausibly contended
that, when all the appliances on the "one-man car" work as it was
intended they should, it could be operated with a high degree of
safety in streets where the traffic is not heavy, yet there is
evidence that, in the short period of the operation of such cars in
Page 251 U. S. 172
the brakes on one of them failed to operate on a descending
grade, resulting in the car's getting out of control under
conditions which, except for good fortune, might have resulted in
serious accident. A passenger testified to receiving slight
injuries when entering a car due to the premature closing of the
door, and he attributed the accident to the presence of other
persons between him and the motorman, whose duty it was to close
the door. It was in evidence that the line on which these cars were
placed, while in general one of light travel, extended into the
principal business section of a city of 40,000 inhabitants; that it
had at least one steep grade in it, and that, at times, the travel
was heavy and the cars crowded.
It is obvious and not disputed that such cars are better adapted
to light than to heavy travel, for all passengers must enter and
leave at one door, and one man must take fares, make change, issue
transfers, answer questions, and also remain in position to start
the car promptly. So occupied and placed, plainly this one man
could not render such assistance as is often necessary to infirm or
crippled or very young passengers, or to those incumbered with
baggage or bundles, and it would not be difficult to suggest
emergencies of storm or accident in which a second man might be of
first importance to the safety and comfort of passengers.
These "one-man cars," at the time of trial, were as yet
experimental, and enough has been said to show that, in each
community, the operation of streetcars presents such special
problems -- due to the extent and character of the travel, to
grades and other conditions -- that with peculiar appropriateness
they have been committed by the law primarily to the disposition of
the local authorities, whose determination will not be disturbed by
the courts except in cases in which the power has been exercised in
a manner clearly arbitrary and oppressive. The rule is
Page 251 U. S. 173
intendment is to be made in favor of the lawfulness of the
exercise of municipal power, making regulations to promote the
public health and safety, and that it is not the province of the
courts, except in clear cases, to interfere with the exercise of
the power reposed by law in municipal corporations for the
protection of local rights and the health and welfare of the people
in the community."
Dobbins v. Los Angeles, 195 U.
, 195 U. S.
Since the record, as we have thus discussed it, fails to show a
clear case of arbitrary conduct on the part of the local
authorities, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Louisiana is