Japan's Urban Transportation System

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Transportation 6 (1977) 171 189
© Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Amsterdam - Printed in the Netherlands




Urban Transportation Program, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195

T he urban areas in Japan have undergone rapid changes in the last two and one-half d ecades. At the same time, the urban transportation system has been faced with n umerous problems which need to be solved urgently. This paper presents the developm ent stage and problems in the three largest metropolitan areas, designated as transport s pheres, in Japan. Japan's problems in urban transportation are similar to those of most W estern nations with regard to such issues as rapid urbanization, growth in travel, i ncreasing auto ownership, growing transit operating deficits, rising wages and air pollut ion. The differences are the large modal split of transit from automobile trips, major e xpansion of the rail transit network, and the large number of transit operators in each u rban area in Japan. In addition, governmental policies to help solve the urban transport p roblems are briefly described. In order to make the policies effective, coordination a mong government agencies is required. The establishment of a unified government a gency is regarded as the first priority in dealing with the urban transport problem. It is e xpected that the government will offer bold new countermeasures to cope with urban t ransportation problems.

I ntroduction
In the last two decades, Japan has achieved a remarkable economic r e c o v e r y a n d l~as e s t a b l i s h e d h e r p o s i t i o n in t h e w o r l d as o n e o f t h e m a j o r modem industrial societies. This rapid economic growth has caused a large shift of rural population to cities and the cities have grown rapidly with few controls. Land has become extremely expensive in urban areas and demands f o r t r a n s p o r t a t i o n h a v e i n c r e a s e d at a v e r y h i g h r a t e . A u t o m o b i l e o w n e r s h i p

T his report was accomplished with the kind assistance of Professor Jerry B. Schneider, D epartments of Civil Engineering and Urban Planning, University of Washington, and Mr. S atoshi Inoue, an official of the Ministry of Transport in Japan, who is currently s tudying at the University of Washington.

h as increased exponentially and city streets have become congested while air q uality has deteriorated.
F ew Westerners can comprehend the Japanese language and so the J apanese experience with the adoption of Western ideas and technology is p oorly understood in the West. Furthermore, the attempts of the Japanese t o grapple with the problems which they now share with the West are not w idely known outside Japan.

T he purpose of this paper is to describe recent and current developm ents in the urban transportation scene in Japan with a particular emphasis o n providing useful information about the transportation system situation in l arge metropolitan areas. Some urban problems are identified, although the d escriptions are rather brief. Some of these problems are found everywhere i n the world, such as traffic congestion, accidents, air pollution, and noise. H owever, there are others which may be unique to Japan, such as the rapid i ncrease in demand for transit over extremely short periods of time, and the l arge dependency on public transportation for mobility.

Population Trends
T he population of Japan has been increasing, and reached 104 million i n 1970. This large population occupies a land area which is approximately e quivalent to the area of the State of California. In recent years, however, t he growth rate has been steady and low compared with the rest of the w orld; the population grew by only 16% between 1955 and 1970, yielding an average annual growth rate of approximately 1%....
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