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RossDensha

Toei Subway (How Tokyo's Subway Keeps On-time, Clean, and Safe)

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RossDensha

Life Where I'm From made this video, which I'm posting here because it focuses on Toei's system, rather than the usual Metro.

It also doen't feel like a suspenseful movie, which is the effect you sometimes get from English language videos about Japanese trains.

Also a nice Toei bus montage at the end.

 

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Tony Galiani

Having ridden transit systems in quite a few countries, I was super impressed by the system in Tokyo.  I cannot get over how clean, efficient and effective it is.

 

One thing that surprised me when I was there was the children riding the train unaccompanied by an adult.  When I grew up in New York City, I used to ride the subway by myself but cannot imagine that happening now.  When I told people in my office about this, they could not believe it.  And I know of college age students who's parents wouldn't want them doing this!

It was interesting to me to see the attendant's reaction - he could not get why this is not the norm elsewhere.  It would be nice if it was.

 

Cheers,

Tony Galiani

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Tony Galiani

Another thought about the transit system - how does this work economically?  Many transit systems seem to be in poor financial shape.  New York's system is a mess for example.  How do the Japanese manage to have such a well developed system and keep it economically viable?

I have often wondered about this as I travel - some infrastructure is well designed and maintained (Tokyo Metro, Haneda Airport, Zurich's Metro) while others are just a mess (Newark Airport, New York's subway).  The contrast always puzzles me.

 

Cheers,

Tony Galiani

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bill937ca
Posted (edited)

I've been collecting information on this for over 10 years.

 

Japanese railway systems are not stand alone transportation systems.  The major private railways are heavily invested in real estate, department stores and numerous other ventures. Last night I searching Google images for various noodle joint signs and I came across a restaurant chain which is part of the Odakyu Restaurant System owned 100% by the Odakyu Electric Railway.  Private railways are usually part of larger corporate group and produce cash flow  that drives further investments.  But there is an iron firewall between the railway group and other elements of the group to protect passengers from fare increases. JR East when it was privatized adopted this system and Tokyo Metro also has adopted the diversified approach.

 

https://www.odakyu-restaurant.jp/company/about.html

 

Tokyo is alive day and night.  The PM peak extends well into the evening. There actually are three peak periods, morning, evening and last hour or so. Access to cars is restricted in Japan by high fees, taxes and licensing. About 40% of the population does not drive. Those employed by large corporations receive their ride as a tax free benefit.  The monthly limit is 100,000 Yen. The season pass is good from their home station to the station closest their job.  Students travel to school  on trains and some local third sector railways survive mainly to transport students. The busiest days of the year usually are the National Holidays when the Japanese travel  and visit temples and shrines by the millions literally, especially over New Years.

 

The major private railways in Tokyo  are all profitable. JR East is as profitable as all seven Tokyo major private railways combined. And those private railways are by no means poor.  JR Tokai and JR West are profitable. JR Tokai is the most profitable of the whole bunch. JR Kyushu breaks even if not is profitable. The rest of the JR companies lose money.  The Kansai private railways are generally profitable, although Hanshin and Hankyu suffered major financial damage in the 1995 earthquake.

 

Railway Market in Japan gives profit figures on page 9 for The Largest Railway Operator in Japan.

https://www.eubusinessinjapan.eu/sites/default/files/railway_market_in_japan.pdf

 

 I will post another source as soon as I find a link.

 

 

Edited by bill937ca
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bill937ca
Posted (edited)

In 2009 John Calimente from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver studied the operations of the Tokyu Corporation and its subsidiary Tokyu Railway and prepared a detailed report entitled Rail integrated communities in Tokyo or RIC. It is not about trains but about the socio-economic environment the trains operate in as described below:

 

Japanese private railways have been instrumental in creating these RICs. Though they receive little financial support from the government, private railways in Japan achieve profitability by diversifying into real estate, retail, and numerous other businesses. Tokyu Corporation is used as the case study to exemplify how government policy and socioeconomic context contributed to the successful private railway model. Ten indicators, such as ridership, population density and mode share are used to analyze two stations created by Tokyu to demonstrate how this model is manifested in Tokyu’s rail integrated communities.

 

There are comparisons of various thresholds with Canadian, US and Japanese values for railway operations and community values like crime levels.

 

The 137 page report is available as a PDF download.     http://summit.sfu.ca/item/9470  Scroll down for a  small blue link.  I checked it today and the link works.

Edited by bill937ca

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Socimi
Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Tony Galiani said:

Having ridden transit systems in quite a few countries, I was super impressed by the system in Tokyo.  I cannot get over how clean, efficient and effective it is.

 

One thing that surprised me when I was there was the children riding the train unaccompanied by an adult.  When I grew up in New York City, I used to ride the subway by myself but cannot imagine that happening now.  When I told people in my office about this, they could not believe it.  And I know of college age students who's parents wouldn't want them doing this!

It was interesting to me to see the attendant's reaction - he could not get why this is not the norm elsewhere.  It would be nice if it was.

 

Cheers,

Tony Galiani

 

It's a cultural thing: childrens in Japan are taught to be as self-reliant as possible from a very early age.

 

This video explains it quite in detail:

 

 

Note that the example in the video is quite extreme: in most cases, elementary schools will be within walking distance from a kid's home, and even if they aren't, they'll usually be a short bus or train ride away. Absolutely nothing like going from Otsuka station on the Yamanote Line (i recognized it depsite not being mentioned in the video) to Kokubunjii Station on the Chuo Line via Shinjuku. Almost only high Schoolers do this kind of commute (or in some case, even longer).

 

2 hours ago, Tony Galiani said:

Another thought about the transit system - how does this work economically?  Many transit systems seem to be in poor financial shape.  New York's system is a mess for example.  How do the Japanese manage to have such a well developed system and keep it economically viable?

I have often wondered about this as I travel - some infrastructure is well designed and maintained (Tokyo Metro, Haneda Airport, Zurich's Metro) while others are just a mess (Newark Airport, New York's subway).  The contrast always puzzles me.

 

Cheers,

Tony Galiani

 

Easy. They don't.

 

The Toei Subway is one of the world's most indebted railways, due to the high construction expenses: the Toei Oedo Line is actually the world's most expensive subway line, with a total estimated construction cost of 1.4 Trillion Yen.

This is the same with many other municipally-owned subway networks such as Nagoya, Sapporo and especially Kyoto.
Toei Subway's first ever profit came in 2006, 46 years after it's opening, and the Kyoto Subway has never had any profit since it's opening in 1981!

 

What's different from Japanese railways to their european and american counterparts is, for startets, that a company structure is always clearly defined (pubblic, private or third-sector) and they always act accordingly, without any exception. Nothing like some european railways wich are pubblicly owned but act shamelessly as private ones.


As second, Japanese railways (with a few exceptions, such as JR Freight) fully own and operate evrything they need. There is no "infrastructure managing company" or rolling stock leasing company. Tracks, trains and the rest is owned by a single company, wich is the same that operates the service, this means that there is no "second company" eating away the railway's earned money.

 

The JR Group and the major private railways  also have extremely diversified businnesses to boost profitability, a classic example are Hankyu and Tokyu wich built entire new towns along their lines to increase ridership. Many bus companies, department stores, travel agencies, real estate companies, hotel companies and even smaller railways can be part of a private railway's group.

 

Incomplete list of the companies part of Tokyu Group (evolved from Tokyu Railway)

 

Finally, the Japanese are well aware of how a public service like railways should be run, and unlike the western world, Japan puts service before profitability.

 

As said before, many Japanese railways are heavily in debt, and they rely on subsidies from metropolitan, prefectural or even the national government itself to continue operating, and as the government knows very well the social and economic importance of the railway, they always grant them. An istance of a railway being refused a subsidy is extremely rare.

 

Except for major private railways, almost any other railway company (including some ones even in the JR Group) recieves some kind of subsidy from a government or a bigger railway company.

 

On the other side, the railways always strive to use said subsidies or eventual profits in the best way possible and also try evrything they can to make themselves profitable, or atleast, not as-dependent-on-subsidies (as an example, the "endangered" Nagareyama Railway regularily holds company-sponsored cosplay events to attract passengers).

 

Yet, depsite the financial troubles they might find itself into, Japanese railways always strive for an excellent service, no matter what.
Even on dying railways a week away from closure, the trains and the stations are always spotless and maintained in perfect state. I recall there was a rural railway (Kurihara Dentetsu maybe) that even made one of it's diesel railcars undergone a general mechanical inspection just five days before the line's closure.

 

The Toei Subway knows very well that it's debt can't be paid back in a lifetime. It's inevitable. Therefore, they'll patiently repay their debt with part of their small profits, with the only certainty that in 50 year's time their economic situation will be at least a little bit better than what it is today.

 

It's the exact opposite of what many western railway company will do if faced with a similar situation: they'll rather have any kind profit wile sacrificing evrtything they can: cleanliness, punctuality, training, maintainance (first the stations', then the trains' and then the infrastructure's) and finally, the passengers' own saftey.

(not to mention that most western governments, especially the United States' one, almost regardless deny subsidies to railways).

 

The New York subway and many other train-only "railways" such as the plethora of "TOCs" in the United Kingdom or the "open-access operators" in europe are a rigorous example of this unhealty and wicked mindsed, both on the railway and the government side.

 

 

 

Edited by Socimi
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Tony Galiani

Thanks for all the great info!  I am learning a lot!

 And I am looking forward to sending the independent kids video to the people I work with.  What a contrast to the helicopter parents so common here.

Cheers,

Tony Galiani

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railsquid
Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, bill937ca said:

I Access to cars is restricted in Japan by high fees, taxes and licensing. About 40% of the population does not drive.

 

I'm not aware of the exact details (don't own a car) but though it may be more expensive than say in North America, but certainly far from Singapore expensive. You do need to be able to prove you have somewhere to park a car, so if living in an apartment that may mean renting a space.

 

In the more central urban areas the road infrastructure is just not capable of supporting mass commuting by car (would be permanent gridlock, and nowhere to park the car anyway); on the street of 10 houses where I live, 8 have cars, of those one belongs to a retired owner; go out at say 10am on a weekday morning 6 of the 7 other cars will still be parked in the drive.

 

In the outer suburbs and rural areas car ownership and usage is far higher.

 

Quote

Those employed by large corporations receive their ride as a tax free benefit.  The monthly limit is 100,000 Yen. The season pass is good from their home station to the station closest their job.

 

Pretty much any company will pay transport costs. Depending on route, creativity and how stringent the company is, you can sometimes work out a very good deal which will be useful for private use (passes are valid at any time and for any stations on the route).

Edited by railsquid
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bill937ca

Some notes from Rail Integrated Communities on auto ownership in Japan.

 

•    a 2008 survey by the business newspaper Nikkei found that only 25% of Japanese men in their 20s even wanted to purchase a car, compared  with 48% in 2000 (New York Times, 2009).
•    the Japanese government imposes strict controls on automobile ownership because of Japan‟s limited land area and lack of domestic oil reserves
•    many streets in Tokyo are still the same 4 metre width as when they were built in the days before the automobile, making driving on side streets a challenge. 
•    Car owners must prove they own a parking space before they can buy a car, unless the car is less than 3.4 metres long with an engine no larger than 660cc (Colliers International, 2008).
•    As recently as 2004, the average monthly charge for condominium parking was 24,250 yen ($250 USD / €195 Euro) in Tokyo Metropolis and 19,175 yen ($195 USD / €155 Euro)in the TMA (Hosono, 2004).

•    The average monthly cost for pay parking lots in Tokyo Metropolis in 2008 was 49,000 yen ($500 USD / € 395 Euro) (Colliers International, 2008).

•    Japanese drivers must pass written, practical, and physical (eye exam, etc.) tests to receive their driver's license. It is usually necessary to attend a driving school to pass the practical test, where courses typically cost at least 300,000 yen ($3,075 USD / €2,425 Euro) (Fukuoka International Association, 2006).

•    Average gasoline prices in Japan are closer to European countries like Spain ($1.21) and Ireland ($1.29) (VTPI, 2006).

 

•    There is also a mandatory vehicle inspection program called the sha-ken, for vehicles with engines over 250c. This is exorbitantly expensive, costing between 49,000 to 150,000 yen ($490 to $1,500 USD or €370 to €1,125 Euro) each time, and is conducted every 1 to 2 years depending on the vehicle type and use(Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, 2002)
•    Formally, the jidousha kensa touroku seido (Automobile inspection registration system)

 

•    In 2005, Japan had 0.058 freeway-km per person, about the same as the U.K. with 0.059. Germany is more than double this number (0.146) while the U.S. has 0.253 freeway-km per person (Japan Road Association, 2005).

•    Tolls in Japan average 25 yen ($0.25 USD or €0.19 Euro) per km, compared with 11 yen per km in France and 7 yen per km in Italy (Nagata, 2008).

•    This works out an automobile costing 15~20% of total wages per year. 

•    If we average the total cost of buying a new car, as well as gasoline, taxes, and inspection fees over nine years, it works out to 50,000 yen ($500 USD or €400 Euro) per month, or 600,00yen($6,000 USD or €4,600 Euro) per year in a country where many employees make three to four million yen per year (Railway Town Development Conference, 2004).

 

•    Although there are 4.62 million licensed automobiles in Tokyo, the most of any prefecture, it has the lowest per capita rate in Japan at 365 vehicles per 1,000 people (Tokyo Metropolitan Government, 2006). 
•    The number of private automobiles per capita (excluding company cars and taxis) is even lower, at 250 vehicles per thousand people (Ibid)
•    In comparison, the number of automobiles per 1,000 people was 560 in the Toronto region, 430 in Montreal, and 610 in Vancouver.
•    In contrast to passenger vehicles, the ownership rate of commercial vehicles in Japan is the world‟s highest at 184 per 1,000 people (Asano, 1998), as freight transport by rail has declined significantly in Japan in recent decades.
•    high density, mixed-use, safe, pedestrian-friendly developments around railway stations are the centres of community life in Tokyo. 
•    Served by frequent, all-day, rail transit, most residents don’t need to use an automobile to move around their neighbourhood or the rest of the city. 
•    The national government has also made driving an expensive proposition, while at the same time subsidizing commuter passes and regulating fare increases. 
•    As a result of all this, the mode share for walking, cycling, and transit is greater than for driving
 

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bill937ca

Notes on fares subsidies and finances from Rail Integrated Communities:

 

 

·         “The fundamental guiding principle of private railways is that total operating costs should be covered only by revenue received from fares” (Jones, 1983, p. 54).

·         Mizutani (1994) determined that the profitability of Japanese private railways is partly due to the accounting rules of the Japanese railway industry

 

·         For example, depreciation is calculated using the historic cost rather than the replacement cost of capital equipment, which helps profitability since it undervalues the private railways (Ibid). But he found that many public railways in other countries also conduct their accounts in this way, or in the case of the U.S., don’t include depreciation at all (Ibid)

·         He concluded that even if replacement cost of capital were used, Japan’s private railways still receive much less in the way of subsidies that other industrialized countries (Ibid).

 

·         Requests to increase fares are submitted every two years in a joint application by all the private railways, based on an estimate of future income and expenditures (Jones, 1983)

 

·         The major private railways in large cities “...use a rate-base calculation system in which capital costs are determined systematically using an asset scale for railway services” (Terada, 1994).

·         Smaller private railways meanwhile use a cost-plus system, whereby fares are calculated to cover incurred costs, including capital costs (Ibid)

 

·         The national government has had a policy of limiting fare increases to suppress inflation, which has had the effect of discouraging private railways from investing large sums in railway operations, except for remodeling facilities to run longer trains (Shoji, 2001).

 

·         The traditional policy of the Japanese government has been to subsidize only the construction of new rail lines and stations by private railways, and not to provide operational subsidies (Yajima, 2000; Mizutani, 1994; Ieda, 2000).

 

·         Property development is the most profitable business for many of the conglomerates and has “...increased the liquidity and creditworthiness of rail companies to the point that loans they need to finance rail expansion are usually available at very favourable terms (and often from the consortia themselves, if necessary)” (Cervero, 1998)

·         With their experience in non-rail businesses, the railways have developed a more market-oriented approach to its passengers

·         With large amounts of cash being generated from railway operations every day, the conglomerate takes on the role of a bank, distributing funds to related companies (Masumoto & Kosuda, 2005)

·         the rail and non-rail sides are strictly separated by the Railway Accounting Ordinance (Shoji, 2001)

·         fares were on average about 24% higher on public railways, adjusting for differences in load factor and trip length

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Yavianice

Related, this Youtube channel (Ask Japanese) has an english video about the Toei Oedo Line maintenance facility which is also interesting. Not sure if it has been shared already, since it was from two decades ago from another dimension last year. English subtitles are available for the Japanese parts.

 

 

Edited by Yavianice
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