Posts Tagged rush-hour

Apr
14

Adventures in Tokyo rush hour

Posted by on Friday, 14 April, 2006

My fellow passengers
The last two mornings have been like a visit to commuter hell. Actually, yesterday was not that bad, but today’s train ride was every bit as fun as being dragged by wild horses and chased by an angry Irish mob (no offence to any Irish people) at the same time. When I came down to the platform all I could see was an endless sea of people. It was almost impossible to even reach the platform, because the lines reached up the stairs from the ticket gates. Apparently there had been some delays during the morning, and finally the trains started running again. People were cramming themselves into the stillstanding train like it was the train to everlasting happiness, but thankfully, finally people realized that there was another train coming in about three minutes so they stood back and waited. Let me tell you, there has to be a very very special reason for a Japanese person NOT to board a train in the morning rush hour. The minute or two gained from squeezing onto an earlier train rather than waiting for the next one is enough to make everyone try it. It’s ridiculous, because the train will be delayed because people are trying to squeeze onto the train. If people knew when to stop boarding, then the train would leave quicker. As it is now, people who start off cramming themselves onto a train to gain three minutes, end up gaining one minute at the most!

Anyway, back to this morning’s adventure. I had to let two trains pass without even considering boarding, because the whole platform and the oncoming train were full. When the third train came, I was hesitant to board even that one; but it was decided for me! I was pushed in by the sheer force of people trying to board the train from behind me! It was out of my control and I ended up stuck in an awkward sardine position in the middle of the train car. Let me tell you, if you are a latent claustrophobic, do not ever try to ride the trains or subways in Tokyo rush hour!

Well, after I had been pushed on to the train by my fellow passengers, the train took off at a veeeery slow pace. You see people were lining up so close to the edge of the platfrom that the train could not move nearly at top speed until all cars had passed the whole platform. Wonderful – it’s a vicious circle this extreme stress to get on the next train – the more people stress to get on, the more delays it causes, and the more people line up and the train gets more crowded, and delayed etc. Thankfully, I only have to ride this crowded train for two stops, then I can change trains to one that is (mostly) less crowded. But I have to get past one station first, and today I knew that was going to be quite a task as well. First the train slowed down to crawling speed again, and then stopped at the station. Then I almost fell out of the car as people further inside the train wanted to get out. The problem was that there was hardly any space on the platform for people in the train that were temporarily stepping out to let people pass, to stand on, because it was all taken up by people pressing to get on the train! The stop at this stop ended without serious incidents though, and the train took off again. Finally, after an agonizing 10 minutes in the train I reached my transit station and could leave the train line from hell behind me!

All in all, my trip to work this morning took about 30 minutes longer than usual, which in itself wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that I was as comfortable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Jan
26

Frustrations in Japan Part 2 – Public Transportation

Posted by on Thursday, 26 January, 2006

Overcrowded train in Tokyo

Part two in my series about how to prepare (and in some cases, avoid) frustrating things in Japan is about public transportation – mainly trains and subways.

First things first: trains & subways (hereafter referred to simply as ‘trains’) in Japan are crowded, I mean really really crowded. This has to do with the fact that most people commute to work/school by train, and not by car. 2.5 million passengers travel on the JR lines in the Tokyo area every day! Add the private railways and subway lines too, and you get a sense of how much people are travelling around everyday!

So, rush hour here in Tokyo for instance (approximately 8 AM – 9 AM) is sort of “survival of the fittest”! Cars are filled over specified capacity, often to 150-220% during morning rush hour, depending on which line you take. Here is an illustraion of what the train congestion levels look like in practice. (The comments below the illustrations are in Japanese, but check out Mari’s translation.) I found some good information about which lines are the most/least crowded in the Tokyo Metropolitan area so I want to present those statistics to you. I put them at the bottom of this post as a sort of Appendix. (If you entered through the main page, you have to click “Read the rest of this entry” further down.)

This is how your train ride should be!

OK, so if you look at the statistics you can see which lines to avoid like the plague in the mornings. Unfortunately, the chances that you actually live along one of those train lines is pretty high – hence the high congestion rate! Here are then some small tips on how to make your train travelling a little bit more enjoyable:

* Avoid rush hour altogether! If you have the luxury of controlling exactly when to travel, you’d better try to go either before 8 AM, or close to, or after 9 AM – because the trains are much emptier then.

* Seek out alternate routes! Investigate the areas around your house and your place of work; are there alternate routes to take which will not slow you down too much? Sometimes it’s worth taking somewhat of a detour to work, if it takes you through less crowded train lines etc, and you only lose around 5 minutes travel time.

* Get on at the first station of the train line. Yes, this is a no-brainer but it can be hard to do anything about it, unless you want to move! If you get on at the first stop, you of course have high chances of getting a seat, which will definately make your travel experience more relaxed. If you live one stop from the final station, if you have time to spare, consider taking the train in the opposite direction back to the end station, and then remain onboard when it returns in the other direction.

* Know your destination and other popular destinations. You can time your travel better if you know exactly when the stations along your way peaks in passengers – then you can adjust your departure according to that. Further, knowing where the exits are from the platform at your destination (and crowded stations along the way) is good because if you can stay away from the train cars which stops closest to the stairs, chances are that the train car will be less crowded. Most people like to get on the cars that are closest to the stairs so they quickly can get out.

* If a train is delayed in rush hour, skip it! Chances are very high that the next train is NOT delayed and will arrive as quickly as one minute later (at least JR lines). Again, most people will try to get on the first train that arrives, so the delayed train will be loaded but the train coming after will be less crowded.

* Rush hour in the evenings is not as bad, because there is no fixed time where most people leave work. However, one time to avoid is around 8 o’clock on Friday evenings. It seems this is a very popular time to go home, so try to plan around it.

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