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Port Richmond Ferry v. Hudson County, 234 U.S. 317 (1914)

Port Richmond & Bergen Point Ferry Co. v. Hudson County

No. 225

Argued March 4, 1914

Decided June 8, 1914

234 U.S. 317


At common law, the right to maintain a public ferry lies in franchise.

In England, such a ferry could not be set up without the King's license, and in this country the right has been made the subject of legislative grant.

Transportation of persons and property from one state to another by ferry is interstate commerce and subject to regulation by Congress, and it is beyond the competency of the states to impose direct burdens thereon; Congress not having acted on the subject, however, the states may exercise a measure of regulatory power not inconsistent with the federal authority and not actually burdening or interfering with interstate commerce.

A state has the power to establish boundary ferries, not a part of a continuous interstate carrier system, and regulate the rates to be charged from its shores, subject to the paramount authority of Congress over interstate commerce, and even though there might be a difference in the rate of ferriage from one side of the stream as compared with the rate charged from the other side.

Questions in respect to ferries such as the one involved in this case generally imply transportation for a short distance, generally between two specified points, unrelated to other transportation, thus presenting situations essentially local and requiring regulation according to local conditions.

The absence of federal action in such a case does not presuppose that the public interest is unprotected from extortion.

A state being able to exercise the power to regulate ferries, it follows that it may not derogate from the similar authority of another state; its regulating power therefrom extends only to transactions within its own territory and to ferriage from its own shores.

Rates of ferriage fixed by one state from its own shore on a boundary ferry do not preclude the other state from fixing other rates if reasonable with respect to the ferry maintained on its side.

Where the state court has not construed an ordinance fixing rates

Page 234 U. S. 318

of ferriage on a boundary ferry as requiring the issuing of round-trip tickets, and this Court does not so construe it, the ordinance may be valid as limiting the amount which may be charged if such trip tickets are issued, and so held in this case. Quaere as to whether a state may require round-trip tickets to be issued on a boundary ferry.

82 N.J.L. 536 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the power of a state, or a municipality acting under its authority, to establish rates of transportation on ferries plying between one of its ports and a port of another state, are stated in the opinion.

Page 234 U. S. 320

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