The United States and Japan have different transportation systems. There are a few contributing factors as to why their transportation system differs. For the Japanese, the first mode of transportation is the transit system within cities and to other cities. In the United States, the first mode of transportation is personal vehicles, and then airplanes for travel to other cities. The United States has cities with public transit services such as New York’s Subway, Boston’s T, San Francisco’s BART, and Atlanta’s MARTA, with some being better than others. While there are rails that connect cities to one another in the United States, it’s not used. This makes the carbon footprint per capita much higher in the United States than in Japan. With a handful of transit systems the US has, they don’t always meet the critical elements of a good transit system.
Effective transit transportation must be convenient, reliable, affordable, and enjoyable. Japan’s transit systems meets all of these criteria. There is a train station within walking distance in Tokyo, which allows the people of Japan to get anywhere in the city without the use of a car. Whereas in Atlanta, the chances of a station being near you or near your destination are very low, often causing the passenger to have to take multiple modes of transportation or walk long distances. The Japanese transit system is reliable. The trains always arrive on time within the minute and frequently serve stations. In cities like New York, there is a higher reliability rate, but in Atlanta, the MARTA is not as frequent and late up to 5 minutes. The Japanese transit system ensures that the passenger has an enjoyable ride. The cleanliness of the trains is unmatched. Every train car and train station is clean and well kept. Unfortunately, there have been far too many times within any transit system in the US that has smelled of human urine. With MARTA, the system is not convenient, reliable, affordable, nor enjoyable for the entire population of Atlanta. However, the transit system in Tokyo is equitable and accessible by all of its inhabitants.
Not only is the transit system not as effective within cities, but the United States does not have an effective system connecting other cities. To begin with, the sheer land size of the United States and Japan differs. The United States is 9.8 million sq. kilometers, and Japan is 378 thousand sq. kilometers. Because of its size, it is easier to create a transit system that connects all of the cities for a country like Japan. However, its size is no reason why the United States does not have an effective transportation system. Europe is 10.18 million square kilometers, yet it has an extensive transit system connecting cities across its countryside. Europeans use the train system to commute and to travel, which resembles how the system would be used here in the United States as well. European trains service 460 billion-passenger kilometers in a year in 2017 and Japan serviced 10 billion people in 2015. The size of the United States should not deter the United States from having an affective transportation system that connects its cities together. It is simply that the United States does not prioritize sustainable transportation like many other parts of the world.
However, Rail companies in Japan such as the JR East do prioritize and understand the importance of sustainable transportation. JR East is a Japanese company that has created the rails that span over the country side of Japan as well as metro Tokyo. They have a research facility that focuses on the safety and engineering of new technology as well as the human experience of their trains and stations. They are creating ground breaking innovations such as train break pads, single-hinged catenary wires, and battery powered mixed electric trains to name a few. Not only does JR East create innovative engineering solutions, they are also dedicated to researching the development and reduction of environmental loads with building more energy efficient power plants, more renewable energy sources, sustainable building systems, and energy saving snow removal. Even though JR East is focusing on more sustainable transportation with innovative solutions, they still have the passenger in mind. They also test the visibility of their signs depending on the height of the ceiling. They are also researching more ways for the person to scan by just walking through the gates. The facility is consistently looking for ways to make the ride more enjoyable and easier on the passenger through innovative technology. Much like the rest of the Japanese transit system, JR East has the passenger in mind and ensures they are comfortable and safe. JR East’s efforts are a part of Japan’s sustainable transit system and help make Japan be an inspiration for the United States to emulate.