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Koike seeks to reduce crowding on trains during rush hour

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One of the more optimistic goals of Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike is "manin densha zero" -- to eliminate crowding on the trains. In November, Nikkei Business (Dec 12) assigned three reporters to board rush-hour commuter trains and present their views on the sources of the problem.

The three were in agreement that it is indeed no exaggeration to describe the morning ordeal undergone by commuters by transposing the word "tsukin" (commuting to work) to another "tsukin," with characters meaning "painful diligence."

Crowded conditions, according to an agreed-upon formula worked out many years ago by the railways and former Ministry of Transport, is evaluated by the so-called "konzatsu-ritsu," a benchmark by which the capacity of a passenger car exceeds 100%.

According to Transport Ministry statistics, conditions have improved, somewhat. In 1975, the average capacity in 31 rail sectors in the greater Tokyo area was determined to be 221%. In 2015, that figure had declined to 164%. Thus despite alleviation in crowded conditions compared with 30 or 40 years ago, unfortunately, commuters' morning "tsukin" has improved little over the past decade and a half.

One of the main reasons for this is that while Japan's overall population has been declining, overconcentration in the capital region has even worsened. Three factors in particular are believed responsible for contributing to overcrowding.

The first is that improvements in rail services tend to lead to developments that negate their convenience. One example is when the Yokosuka Line expresses began servicing a new station, Musashi Kosugi in Kawasaki City. "Tower Manshon" apartments and new shopping centers promptly sprang up in the area, and the Yokosuka Line's rush hour capacity actually rose in 2015, to 193%. A similar situation housing development situation could be found along the Denen Toshi Line in west Tokyo, whose rush-hour capacity is 188%.

A second factor is the increase in the number of rail companies sharing the same line ("sogo nori-ire"). The Tozai Line, which is run by Tokyo Metro, JR Sobu and Toyo Rapid Railway lines between Chiba and Mitaka City in west Tokyo, makes it easier for commuters to reach their destination without changing trains, but funnels more passengers into the fray, resulting in a capacity of 199%. (Note: The aforementioned capacity figures are based on data from the railway companies; independent checks suggest the actual figures are higher, with the biggest discrepancies being the Tobu Isesaki Line and Keio Inokashira Line.)

The third factor is that the so-called peak commuting time has actually expanded. Formerly many companies expected staff to be at work between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. The introduction of flextime, however, has not had much of an impact on alleviating crowded conditions. As Yuji Morimoto, a managing director at JR East Japan, tells the magazine, "The numbers of passengers riding just before and after the peak times have been increasing."

For the time being, a few experimental ideas have been adopted to see if the situation can't be helped along. The Tokyu Denen Toshi Line, which runs parallel to National Highway 246, has begun a campaign that accepts commuter rail passes to utilize the same company's buses, some 50 to 60 of which run per hour during the weekday rush period between Sangenjaya station in Setagaya Ward and JR Shibuya station.

Nikkei Business also provided a sidebar of survey data from the Fuman Kaitori Center -- a website that encourages people to log on with their complaints and pet peeves (http://fumankaitori.com).

The six worst irritants, as stated by respondents, were, in descending order, passengers emitting unpleasant odors; people who force their way aboard too vigorously; frequent delays; no women-only cars (or not enough); direct skin contact with other passengers; and overheated cars.

The respondents were also invited to convey their expectations to the railway companies. The most popular requests were: to issue warnings to bad-mannered or inconsiderate passengers; to increase the number of train runs; to place maximum limits on train passengers; to increase stand-up areas in the cars, even if it means fewer seats; and to turn down the heat.

Governor Koike, meanwhile, has brought in an expert consultant and appears serious about finding ways to alleviate Tokyo's notorious crowding. If she manages to succeed, the voters will no doubt return her to office by a landslide.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

37 Comments
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If she manages to succeed, the voters will no doubt return her to office by a landslide.

WTF is this, a poor attempt at subliminal persuasion?

-2 ( +4 / -7 )

Trains running at 200% of capacity?

Who would want to endure that day after day ?

Tokyo is one place I will never find myself living in....

17 ( +20 / -3 )

WTF is this, a poor attempt at subliminal persuasion?

I don't think so. If she could actually fix the train problems somehow she'd be hailed as a hero.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

It won't be long until one out of every three house and business is empty from depopulation, so it won't take much "action" to ease the crush on the Yamanote.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Patrick SmithDEC. 31, 2016 - 07:34AM JST WTF is this, a poor attempt at subliminal persuasion?

I don't think so. If she could actually fix the train problems somehow she'd be hailed as a hero.

Yes, I think the writer is being sarcastic - there is no solution to overcrowded trains in Tokyo; pop. density is just too high.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Particularly bad in terms of ridiculous overcrowding are the JR East Saikyo Line and the Tokyu Toyoko and Den-en-toshi Lines. They need to figure out a way to get the riders now using the Saikyo LIne to use more the "F-Liner" service via the Seibu Ikebukuro and Tobu Tojo Lines with runthrough on the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line and help Tokyu rebuild stations to run longer trains on the Den-en-toshi and Toyoko Lines.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Used the Namboku line when I was living in Tokyo. Wasn't too bad in the morning although still very crowded. Is there a solution? Hard to really increase frequencies and platform lengths are what they are I suppose. Build another couple of lines perhaps?

Is that perhaps what Koike is aiming at, preparing the ground for another couple of metro lines?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Encourage more companies to relocate to outside the Yamanote Line or the suburbs. Encourage more take up of flextime in companies so that commuters are not all trying to reach their offices by 8am or 8.30am.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

So which lines would people say have the words overcrowding in the am commute?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One major factor behind the overcrowded trains (and buses) in Tokyo is the simple fact that the more people the train companies can cram into a railway car, the more profit the company generates. The railway companies could easily alleviate crowding if they were to run more trains on crowded runs, but doing so would be less profitable.

It frustrates me to no end when I and my fellow passengers are left waiting a considerable amount of time for a train to arrive, only to find that it is bone-crushingly full of people — and this is the situation at certain times every day. In those cases where there is a substantial amount of time between train arrivals, there is obviously track capacity to add additional trains and/or trains with more railway cars.

The extent of train/bus overcrowding in Tokyo is dangerous, and would be illegal in most first-world countries. It should be made illegal here as well.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Encourage people to bike to work by doing what other major cities like London and NYC are doing - dedicated bicycle lanes, an easy-to-use bike-share network, more parking areas, etc.

Right now, most companies actually forbid their employees from riding to work- they must take the train.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I've been avoiding the crowd by going to work at 6:30am and leaving at 4:00pm

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I've been avoiding the crowd by going to work at 6:30am and leaving at 4:00pm

I used to do that too. I rode the 5:56 out of Tsudanuma (Chiba) and arrived at my office at 7:00. Then I'd go in a meeting room and doze for two hours until it was time to work. Company was understanding and gave me a key to the office.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

some over crowded lines: JP:

Saikyo line Utsunomiya line Yamanote line

Metro:

Tozai line Hibiya line

Toei

Shinjuku line
3 ( +3 / -0 )

qwertyjapanDEC. 31, 2016 - 08:12AM JST It won't be long until one out of every three house and business is empty from depopulation, so it won't take much "action" to ease the crush on the Yamanote.

Doubtful. Even if your unlikely notion of depopulation were to happen within any reasonable amount of time (and hopefuilly it won't), it's definitely not going to happen in all areas equally. Barring a nuclear strike on Tokyo, the Yamanote line will be the last place in all of Japan to depopulate.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'm sure it's possible to determine the maximum (or ideal range) number of people (and account for bags, suitcases, baby carriages, etc.) that could fit in a train car comfortably (i.e. a person can reasonably make his/her way from one end of the car to the next). Why not use that data in conjunction with high-speed scanners of a sort to count everybody so that a train car doesn't exceed a capacity beyond what is comfortable?

People already line up right where the doors open, board quite orderly and (mostly) adhere to a variety of other rules on the train. If an LCD screen shows that 2 more people can enter the train, I think people would go for it and likewise if the screen says "zero - wait for the next train". Plus, more staff could be hired to monitor the new system right at the doors.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As article says, many "urban developments" are aimed at creating congestion where little had existed before. I was involved in one such project, where the developers gleefully bragged about how "busy" their new complex was going to be in this otherwise peaceful spot in eastern Tokyo.

South of Shinjuku Station is another case in point. It used to be a fine spot to relax and take a quiet stroll down to Yoyogi. Now it's filled with towering shopping complexes - and huge crowds.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hell let people ride on the top of the train, and hang out of the doors if necessary, I know of at least one country where that is quite common, might ease congestion a bit!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Hell let people ride on the top of the train, and hang out of the doors if necessary, I know of at least one country where that is quite common, might ease congestion a bit!"

I'm not sure that would be a good idea in sleep-deprived, suicide-loving Japan.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A company I worked for hired a new arrival, a woman from the UK, and expecting that it would take her a while to become acclimatized to commuting in Tokyo allowed her to come in to work at 10:30 and leave for home at 4:30. Despite this she literally freaked out from the pressure and submitted her tearful resignation after just one week.

I've also read stats (although some time ago) showing the toll "tsukin" takes on Japanese workers, including studies pointing to a shortened life expectancy. If a politician can do something to improve people's lot, he or she has my unreserved support.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Crowded trains here are simply INHUMANE!!! I did the commutes for about 10yrs moving around to make it easier, shorter etc but it was still HELL!! Did I mention inhumane...... And since I was self employed after about 5yrs I staggered my arrival in the morning but it got to the point I NEEDED to have drinks to just jump on that damned trains. Then I MADE changes as it was very unhealthy. I love a good drink but to HAVE to have some to get on the train & seeing the zombies all around was depressing as well.

Then I said frig this, worked from home & found an office a short drive away & have BLISSFULLY given the middle finger to the commutes from hell! And yes I am positive these commutes are putting people in their graves early, making them sick etc.

Tokyo MUST start to seriously de-centralize, its beyond insane. But hey I have solved the problem for myself, hope many others can as well, govt & business here doesn't seem to care & when you add the stupid unproductive ways of being a salaryman/woman.......life with a blue sheet under a bridge starts looking mighty attractive!

Koike san I wish you GREAT success in this endeavor, millions are being not so slowly turned into REAL zombies, its all extremely unproductive & soul destroying!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@GW, I couldn't agree more with your suggestion about "decentralizing" Tokyo corporate offices itself. They need to move corporate offices away from much of Tokyo inside the Yamonote Line loop or the Marunouchi district and put them in other Tokyo wards, southern Saitama Prefecture, western Chiba Prefecture and Kanagawa Prefecture.

I mean look at New York City. Many Wall Street firms are now putting up offices not on Manhattan, but on New Jersey side of the Hudson River, where there is a lot of space to grow.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Completely double decker trains just like in Austria, Germany and other European countries.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's a complicated issue. Then the larger part of solution is in allowing more flexibility on schedule and working from home/remote offices would help a lot. 98% of office jobs could be done from anywhere, the technology has been here for 2 decades. The change could be done overnight if companies changed of mindset. But in most places (Tokyo included) the managers are nearly all fossiles that can't see the technology shift, and that insist on seeing their cattle showing up all together at the office, sitting down at desks as if that was 1950.

what other major cities like London and NYC are doing

on New Jersey side of the Hudson River,

Their politicians are bragging more, but the results there is a continuous worsening. J-cities do great compared to the nightmare commuting hells we have let happen in Europe. Japanese transports are improving, because they permanently invest on new lines, more trains/buses/monorails, tunnels for roads, more efficiency, etc. They have to continue investing in transports as a priority.

people to bike to work

Japan has already a record rate of people doing a part of the way cycling.

de-centralize

That looked great on the paper and that created new problems. Kanto spent the 80's and 90's decentralizing, before going backward. That make things worse if transportation are not planned a decade before at least and if people cannot move easily to live close to workplace (complicated when people own their home and it's becoming impossible now that several persons from a same family have careers). In Paris, most of us now work outside the city (in areas with plants or offices only) and we live outside (in the affordable residential only areas)... so that makes our route 3 times worse. By train/bus : going into the city + crossing it + going out of it. Over-crowded trains all the way. By car : driving on tiny roads to reach the large loop roads + driving a part of loop + driving your way in the maze of tiny roads to workplace. Traffic jam all the way. 3 hours a day is becoming average. Even my friends that are considered lucky to have their house on the same side of the city as their workplace have 30 minutes of traffic jams (versus a smooth 5 to 10 minutes on the same route 20 yrs ago). The happy elites live and work inside the city, so they walk or cycle from their luxury flat to their luxury office inside the central locations.

the toll "tsukin" takes on Japanese workers, including studies pointing to a shortened life expectancy.

So without that, they'd all live 130 years ? In my old village, they have roughly 25% of each generation killed or crippled in commuting accidents on countryside roads in bad weather.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"But in most places (Tokyo included) the managers are nearly all fossiles that can't see the technology shift, and that insist on seeing their cattle showing up all together at the office, sitting down at desks as if that was 1950." ......................................................................................................... Many "cattle" I know welcome the chance to get out of the house and be around other people. Technology has its place, but shouldn't be allowed to disrupt (a word many technocrats like to use) vital social needs often for the sake of improving the bottom line. Of course, they don't bother to ask anyone, do they?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yubaru: Trains in Tokyo have high voltage wires on top. Not a good idea to ride up there.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Well, logically, I am not sure what else she can do, if train are running at 200% capacity than either double the capacity of the trains (double deck ?), half the commuters or provide twice the frequency (faster rotation).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many workers go in late avoiding the crowded trains. Several of my colleagues cycle to work. It is possible to live in Tokyo without using rush hour trains. And the good idea above regarding decentralizing which Rakuten did recently. It is usually a ruse for companies to save money by using cheaper land but if it is a win-win, why not.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Many "cattle" I know welcome the chance to get out of the house and be around other people.

It's possible that you know real cattle. There probably exist a little minority that see a long crwoded train trip to the same noisy office everyday as their only chance to go out and see other human beings.... and surely it becomes like when they no longer have a life after/before work.

vital social needs

The commute and 8 to 5 military style office , it is a vital social need ? I wonder how humanity survived until it was invented. In the companies where flexibility is possible, nearly all the employees take the opportunity to do at least a part of their work outside of the office and/or they don't totally keep the 8 to 5 / monday-friday pattern. That was proven it worked in Japan when flex time was introduced. Roughly 100% of my many acquaintances in Osaka have seized the opportunities.

Of course, they don't bother to ask anyone, do they?

You stick to having one same pattern forced on everybody. I am certain that if most indivuals hade a margin of choice, the over-crowding in transports and on roads would disappear naturally. If in average workers avoid commuting only once a week, that makes 20% less in the trains and on the roads.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You have 2 basic factors that have to be reconciled, neither of which are likely to change much: the number of commuters, and the number of trains/schedules on which they operate. Adding more rolling stock is meaningless if timetables will not accommodate additional trains; limiting the number of passengers will exacerbate delays of people getting to work. An 8-hour workday coupled with flextime, and/or work from home schemes would go a long way toward alleviating the problem.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The number of people aren't changing, and as the article says it is increasing in many others, so the only thing that could realistically alleviate crowding is more trains (1 per 60 seconds during rush), bigger trains (8 cars instead of 6), or more train lines (eg. Hanzomon and Ginza lines from Omotesando to Shibuya run from the same platform in Omotesando so crowding there is almost non-existent).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If people not in sales could telecommute more (even 1 day per week)...nah makes too much sense.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If they coupled all the Yamanote line train sets into one long, long train and just ran it slowly around the track, that's the only way they could reduce the crowding in the morning. It would take ages to get around from Shinagawa to Ikebukuro, but you would not be squashed!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I don't think the trains are the issue, While pricey, most cities and populations would love to have Tokyo's train & bus system.

The issue is the company's inane "face-time" requirements for everyone strictly all being at the office at the same start time and then staying at the office/nearby pub as late as possible. The result is everyone takes the latest train they can the next day to hit 8:59AM and not a minute earlier. So of course you get the 200% numbers from 7-8:30.

The solution is a combination of Flex time, work from home (full or part), job-sharing, hotel desks at remote centers outside of downtown location co-located near residential centers like Musashi Kosugi or out in Chiba, etc., peak usage charges (not paid for by the firm) anytime over 100%, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

maybe larger trains with more capacity and have them run more frequently during rush hour?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Recently moved to a place on the Sobu line and now have the privilege of being on the most crowded train line in Tokyo (according to the quoted figures). I am disappointed to read that flex time is not working, but i have never actually heard of a Japanese company that offers true flex time (allowing workers to decide a time between 7 and 11am from which to start), so i wonder if that is actually being tested?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

More cars would make the trains to long for the stations but you could have double deckers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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