Comparing Tokyo's Two Rapid Transit Systems
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Comparing Tokyo's Two Rapid Transit Systems

JapanÂ’s capital city of Tokyo has two separate systems in use on its subway network, the larger of the two is the privately owned Tokyo Metro or Metoro, the second network (Toei) is operated by the cityÂ’s metropolitan government. Between the two of them they hold the record as being the most heavily used of the worldÂ’s subway systemÂ’s in terms of the number of passengers carried annually.

Tokyo Metro Company Limited is a private company formed to operate the city’s extensive metro system of over 400km of routes throughout the city. It is a private company under the joint ownership of the governments of Japan and Tokyo’s metropolitan area. The present company replaced the Teito Rapid Transit Authority in 2004; the former company had been in operation since 1941 although the first lines were in use back in 1927.

In comparison the Toei subway system is operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation, this system has run at a loss for most years it has been in operation since 1960, mostly due to the high costs of its initial construction. The first year this system operated a net profit was not until 2006 having run at a loss for the first forty six years of operating.

The two systems operate separate networks although some interchanging stations do exist to transfer from one to another. Prepaid rail passes can be used on both systems and users can freely pass through the gates by using this payment service. Holders of other tickets must purchase one ticket for the first operator then a second ticket if their journey requires them to change operators; all fares are calculated as separate journeys on each leg of the system.

The majority of stops are announced in both Japanese and English making travel between stations relatively easy for those that do not speak the local language. When purchasing tickets the machines can be used in these two languages and all signposts within the stations are similarly marked. Many signs are also written in Mandarin Chinese and Korean. For passengers not speaking any of these four languages all lines are colour coded and numbered consecutively allowing travel without understanding the language and just through the use of numbers.

Many of the major stations are also able to be used by blind or visually impaired passengers with raised strips and Braille to ease the travel for these passengers.

The systems are run to a very efficient standard with punctuality an important factor in daily operations. Most services run at five minute intervals from 5.00am until 1.00am. Tokyo’s two major airports Narita and Haneda are currently only served by the smaller Toei system although the Tokyo Metro has a 400 million Yen project to link both airports directly to Tokyo Railway Station the cost of which is expected to come from the rail operators and the two governments (national and metropolitan) involved.

The Tokyo metro had an average daily usage of 6.33 million people during 2009 and that led to an annual profit of 63.5 billion Yen during the same year. During the same period the Toei network carried 2.33 million passengers each day on average and made an annual profit of 12.2 billion Yen. The Toei system has four lines and 106 stations in use while the larger Metro has nine lines and 188 stations.

The trains on the Tokyo Metro system can become severely overcrowded particularly during the morning and evening peak periods of travel. Platform attendants or oshiya are employed during these times of peak commuter travel to push passengers and whatever they are carrying into the cars so that the doors can close. On many trains the first and last car is reserved for female passengers only during the peak travel times.

In addition to the four subway lines operated by the Toei network there are also an additional four light railways including the city’s Zoo Monorail. Toei is also tasked with running the city’s extensive bus network, essentially to fill the gaps not covered by the two rapid transit systems. It was also responsible for the operation of trolley buses that ran from 1952 until 1968, they were however very reliant upon the weather. Rain caused severe problems to the power supply that ran above the vehicles and the winter snow required the use of chains to be affixed to the tyres to allow the vehicles to grip the road surface.

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Comments (4)

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