Monday, January 03, 2005

A few observations from Tokyo, for Beyond Chron editor Randy Shaw, who suggested comparing public transit with that in the Bay Area. Randy, no comparison. The largest rail system, Japan Railways, has 35 lines in Greater Tokyo alone. Many of those have express and rapid service, and that total does not include the smaller subway and train corporations, or the Shinkansen bullet trains. Suffice to say, if you want to get around in Tokyo, you take the train. You just can't say that in the Bay Area, although the Muni Metro is pretty efficient. ... But while rail service is speedy and comfortable (heated seats, it's a cold winter over here), you can't say too much good about conditions for drivers (and that wouldn't be very PC, either, now would it?), or pedestrians. If you're disabled, forget about it. ... While I'm sure the folks at Transportation for a Liveable City or SPUR would file a more complete reports, here's how it stands from a Toyko day-tripper: there are seperate trailways along main roads, but both bikes and pedestrians share them with inadequate signage to keep the two apart. Bikes also share the sidewalks with pedestrians, or along less-used backroads, the two classes share narrow marked lanes (although these do have colored pavement - bike coalition eat your heart out); sharing space between bikes and cars on the narrow streets, with frequent double-parking that leaves only one lane of open traffic on some city streets, would be even more dangerous; freeways carry very hefty tolls, and city center congestion is worse than the Bay Bridge at rush hour; few buildings are disabled-friendly, and the fight for space in narrow traffic lanes and sidewalks makes for slow and perilous going on foot. ... Happily, a diesel engine ban enacted a couple years back - while exposing corporate graft from a company that sold modification kits - seems to have worked; the air is very breathable, better even than S.F., perhaps. ... That's it, in short. ...

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