Tokyo’s transit system runs seamlessly and efficiently, even while serving a massive population, making it one of the most impressive transportation systems in the world. Even after using the railway only once, I was struck by how a system so expansive and complex runs so smoothly and effectively, especially when compared to simpler systems I have experienced in different cities. While I have only been traveling on it for a couple of days, I feel more confident in my ability to navigate and more impressed by its efficiency after every use.
One of the first things I noticed about the train stations was that they are busy, but not as busy as you’d expect in a city as densely populated as Tokyo. We learned that around 8.5 million people use the Tokyo Metro each day, but you’d never feel that congestion when riding it. While the rail system is undoubtedly frequented by many, the quick turnover of the trains alleviates a lot of the crowding. One of the stations we visited, Shinjuku station, serves 260,000,000 people per year. They even have employees called “pushers” that will push people onto the train in peak hours. The train cars themselves tend to be pretty packed, but people arrange themselves facing the windows to optimize the space. The use of private cars seemed to be low relative to the population density of the city. From what I observed on the bus ride to Shinjuku on the first day, bus transportation is popular but is only really useful for specific routes. Overall, it seems the metropolitan railway system is the most feasible and busy transportation in Tokyo.
Inside of a Train Car on Yamamote Line Bus in Chiba
All forms of transportation we used were extremely timely. While I didn’t actually time the arrivals and departures myself, there were no noticeable delays or interruptions that occur on other public railway systems. The cars on the trains and monorails also have a screen showing your transit in progress and listing an ETA for each station. It is also very clear that timeliness is a big part of Japanese culture; the locals line up for the trains well before they arrive and are quick to hop on and off. It is convenient that the trains arrive very frequently in case you miss the line you were hoping to take. The commitment to timeliness and cooperation of the riders make the transportation system very reliable.
It’s relatively easy to find information about the transit systems if you have a general idea of the layout of the city. When you enter each station, there’s an overhead sign showing the trains and their arrival times. Before the card entrance, there are color-coded posters depicting the lines between each city. They also have platform information posters that list the locations of each line and give you an estimate of the travel time between your current location and desired destination. Once you’re on the train, you’re able to see the number of stops until your destination along with any announcements of delays. They also have an English announcement system that comes on as the train approaches the station that tells you which trains you can connect to at the upcoming station. We even had a local man assist us in the Shinjuku station when he saw us looking at the maps and struggling to determine the quickest train to Tokyo station. All of these factors together make the transit system much more navigable for both locals and first-time riders.