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Tokyo Metro's place in the world's most complex metro systems


bikkuri bahn

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Interesting article, but make sure to read the comment section, particularly the comment by "simple"- who lays out a common problem with these comparisons.

For all its colorful frenzied glory, the Tokyo Metro map isn’t the most complex subway guide in the world. New York and Paris both have it topped—at least in the eyes of one group of theoretical physicists and mathematicians.

Researchers Riccardo Gallotti and Marc Barthelemy of the CEA-Saclay in France and Mason Porter of the University of Oxford in the U.K. recently set out to calculate the maximium transit map information someone can “reasonably process.” The goal, they write in Science Advances, was to see whether the growth of urban transportation systems has led to visual guides that “exceed our cognitive limits.” If that’s the case, then city residents and visitors might soon have to rely on digital navigation apps less as a crutch than as a necessity.

 

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2016/02/most-complex-transit-subway-maps-world-tokyo-new-york-paris/470565/

Edited by bikkuri bahn
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Their parameters are the subway maps.  The transit system yes may be bigger than that.  But that isn't the parameters they were looking at.

 

Personally I think the Tokyo system is ranked too high.  It is a lot more user friendly than a lot of other subways across the globe for my personal situation.  English signage and English speaking staff make it easier to navigate compared to other subways.

 

It is just an article about a few maths wizs that have come to a conclusion but have never traveled the globe or set foot in most of those subways they just ranked.  I can tell you right now they would struggle more in Barcelona than Tokyo.

Edited by katoftw
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To me, the NYC map is much more linear and therefore easier to graphically grasp.  You can look at where you are, where you want to go, and fairly easily determine the best way to get there.

 

Tokyo's, on the other hand, looks like a bowl of ramen noodles.  You can distinguish the endpoints, but the middle is a complex maze of possible connections.

 

I can see the "magenta" line starting near Shinjuku, making a big loop, and then returning to the same place.  Other lines will start from the edge, go into the center, and then emerge in a direction totally disoriented from the direction they started in.  As I recall - the Montreal system is similar, and I understand the goal of providing the maximum area coverage with the minimal number of distinct physical lines.

 

I think the map could be better designed to be more clear.  A big problem for me is that almost all of the lines are represented as if they were an equal distance from each other, with no regard to the actual geography - which is clearly depicted in the NYC map.  It's interesting to me that NYC previously used a style more similar to the Tokyo map - at least in the generic manner that changes in route direction were depicted as 45 and 90 degree angles, while now it uses a more realistic style.

 

I don't get this "bit" in the article:  "When it comes to information processing, an average person’s “cognitive threshold” is about 250 connections, or the equivalent of roughly eight bits of data, according to the researchers. New York’s system neared that limit, with 161 total connections, and the most complicated two-transfer trip a person could make on the subway exceeded it—clocking in at 8.1 bits. Maps for the Paris Metro (with 78 total connections), Tokyo Metro (56), and London Tube (48) clustered around six bits of information."

 

They are apparently using 8 bits as one byte ~256 values, but I don't see the determining factors as necessarily being binary.  I don't comprehend just how a two connection route would be dramatically different in any one city over another.  Just what are the factors that cause "the most complicated two-transfer trip a person could make" on the NYC subway?  How are those necessarily more complex than such a trip in any of the other cities, and what are the values they're plugging in to arrive at their assigned total for each city?  Unfortunately, they provide zero documentation on just how these "calculations" were made.

 

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  I can tell you right now they would struggle more in Barcelona than Tokyo.

 

Based on the maps, it doesn't look too bad, and this is one of the more complex maps I could find.  The inter-line connections appear to be clearly shown.  I had no problem getting from La Rambla to the airport in the morning rush hour - with my heavily loaded touring bicycle!  Although it looks as if that isn't officially a subway line, I boarded it underground at a station shared with the subway.

 

 

gallery_941_192_329265.jpg

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I do think the lack of geography makes it harder to understand the Tokyo map. I'm from NYC and I'm familiar with the NYC subway map, but the thing about New Yorkers is that most of us go between the same two points every day and nowhere else. So while I generally may know approximately where a subway line goes, I still need to look at the map whenever I'm going basically anywhere outside of my normal daily routine. But because I'm familiar with the geography of the city itself, I'm easily able to find the stations and subway lines I need.

 

One interesting quirk of the NYC subway map is that it renders Manhattan far larger than it actually is in relation to the other boroughs. But it doesn't really matter; even though the proportions are exaggerated, things are still basically where a New Yorker would expect them to be on the map. If I need to get to a particular landmark, I can figure out what station is closest to me and what station is closest to that landmark just by looking at the subway map, because the different parts of the map are at least drawn to scale within a given area.

 

I could be wrong but I'm not sure that's really the case with the Tokyo Metro map. I've been going to Tokyo once or twice a year since 2000 and I still can't really figure out where stuff is on the Tokyo Metro map. For example, how would I get to Tokyo Skytree from Hanzomon just by looking at the Metro map? Your guess is as good as mine. Even if I knew approximately where both of those locations were, there are at least three or four stations on the map that could be the closest stations, though they could also be way off. There's just no real way to tell.

 

I've never been able to rely exclusively on the map; I always use Google to give me directions. I sometimes use the map for transfer info, but that's about all it's been good for for me.

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Tokyo is maybe the most complex (in my opinion and experience). As a child, I had no problem with the Paris metro and getting around, but Tokyo eats the cake. Two companies competing with each other, an organic city growth (Paris and New York have a largely planned city), and complex transfer systems make it a hard to understand map, even for frequent travelers. Throw in there, the complex through-services, adding the complex and non-canon map designs of other companies, and the confusion is complete (this was not taken into account in the research even).

 

Slowly, but surely, the map gets understandable through time, but for tourists, this is a challenge still. The help of secondary aids, like route planners are a convenience, but might still confuse in practice.

Edited by Toni Babelony
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I think the maps for each company running trains services in Tokyo are relatively easy to understand. As long as you only look at one company and its through services only. If you look at all the lines and services in the Tokyo metropolitan area (which is imho the biggest one on this planet) on a unified map, then it gets huge and very complex. Even if you use the geographically correct map with some terrain features added, it's still very hard to understand it, thanks to the sheer numbers of lines and stations and some of the redundancy (aka. distributed capacity) that real competition brings.

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I could be wrong but I'm not sure that's really the case with the Tokyo Metro map. I've been going to Tokyo once or twice a year since 2000 and I still can't really figure out where stuff is on the Tokyo Metro map. For example, how would I get to Tokyo Skytree from Hanzomon just by looking at the Metro map? Your guess is as good as mine. Even if I knew approximately where both of those locations were, there are at least three or four stations on the map that could be the closest stations, though they could also be way off. There's just no real way to tell.

 

It'd be so helpful if there was a station called "Oshiage (SKYTREE)" on the Hanzomon line ;)

 

I've never been to New York but from maps it looks like it has a relatively uncomplicated topography, especially Manhattan, with lots of streets on grid patterns. Tokyo, by contrast, is utterly chaotic, so the layout of any given area (with the exception of parts built on reclaimed land) is much less intuitive.

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I think what makes the Tokyo subway system so complex is the large number of through services operating in conjunction with several companies. For example, the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line has trains running from four different companies (Tokyo Metro, Seibu, Tobu and Tokyu) since March 2013, when Tokyu phased out the above-ground station at Shibuya. Or the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line with trains running from three different companies (Tokyo Metro, Odakyu and JR East).

 

Personally, in reality there's one major way to orient yourself in Tokyo: know every station on the JR East Yamanote Line.

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The through-running has another side-effect, namely that through-running non-metro trains often don't have maps of the metro (and vice-versa). Not a problem if you have your own map, a smartphone or know where you're going, but no map to stare at (apart from whatever line map is shown on the monitors, if installed) can be a pain.

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Something else to consider with the Tokyo metro (small "m", I'm talking about both Tokyo Metro and Toei networks) is that Tokyo's network doesn't play the same role as the dominant heavy rail urban transport system as in many cities - one way of looking at it is as a commuter distribution network for destinations inside the Yamanote Line. Despite having lived here for 8 years, apart from a 10 month period where I commuted to a location right next to a metro station, most of the time my transport needs are covered by my local private line + JR, and if it wasn't for my regular trips to Akihabara (JR inbound to Akihabara Station, Tokyo Metro return from Suehirocho, which is right next to Tamtam) I'd hardly use it at all.

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I've never been to New York but from maps it looks like it has a relatively uncomplicated topography, especially Manhattan, with lots of streets on grid patterns.

Manhattan is one of five boroughs, and the smallest by land mass. It makes up about 7% of the city's total land mass, and even within Manhattan, not all of the borough is a grid.

 

Tokyo, by contrast, is utterly chaotic, so the layout of any given area (with the exception of parts built on reclaimed land) is much less intuitive.

Tokyo and New York really aren't much different in terms of their street topography. Both Tokyo and New York have areas that are logical and large areas that are not. For example, this map of the area around Shibuya and Minato: http://www.mapaplan.com/travel-map/tokyo-japan-city-top-tourist-attractions-printable-street-plan/high-resolution/tokyo-top-tourist-attractions-map-09-shibuya-metro-train-station-harajuku-aoyama-roppongi-akasaka-district-satellite-meiji-jingu-shrine-high-resolution.jpg

 

...doesn't look a whole lot different than this map of the Bronx: http://www.vidiani.com/maps/maps_of_north_america/maps_of_usa/large_detailed_bronx_bus_map_nyc.jpg

 

Two companies competing with each other, an organic city growth (Paris and New York have a largely planned city),

NYC actually had more competing subway companies than Tokyo originally, and these now make up the existing system. The MTA has done its best to bring them together, but there are still physical differences that mean that BMT/IND trains can't run on IRT lines, necessitating transfers.

 

These lines originally were intended to serve totally different customer bases, and that's still clear by where the lines actually run.

 

The point being, I don't think there's anything inherently more chaotic about Tokyo vs. NYC with regard to the transit system. Tokyo just doesn't have as good of a map.

Edited by spacecadet
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One way that NYC is like Tokyo is that the center city absorbed a bunch of formerly independent cities, each with their independent street networks. One thing that NYC did early in the 19th Century was to impose the grid on all of Manhattan  and make it stick as the city built north.  This has both it's good and bad sides. 

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The point being, I don't think there's anything inherently more chaotic about Tokyo vs. NYC with regard to the transit system. Tokyo just doesn't have as good of a map.

 

My point exactly.

 

> Posted 29 February 2016 - 12:29 AM

To me, the NYC map is much more linear and therefore easier to graphically grasp.  You can look at where you are, where you want to go, and fairly easily determine the best way to get there.

 

Tokyo's, on the other hand, looks like a bowl of ramen noodles.  You can distinguish the endpoints, but the middle is a complex maze of possible connections.

 

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NYC actually had more competing subway companies than Tokyo originally, and these now make up the existing system. The MTA has done its best to bring them together, but there are still physical differences that mean that BMT/IND trains can't run on IRT lines, necessitating transfers.

 

Tokyo still has two competing companies that only since about a decade, or so, have made attempts to approach each other. This after being on cut-throat levels of competition. Not the most encouraging environment to create a comprehensible map, nor an official map, as most conventional maps look based on the maps of either company (Tokyo Metro or Toei), depending on the affiliation of the map creator/distributor.

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