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Old May 11th, 2016, 01:14 PM   #7541
k.k.jetcar
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I like that sinister looking octopus, and the ominous looking island (Enoshima?) in the background. Of course the stairwell is spotless. Plus there is a soba shop in the station building. Better than some expensive "pretty" station with "iconic" art, but doesn't even have a toilet for passenger use, much less a cafe or kiosk (stations in many California systems).

*apparently there is a dental office on the 3F too. So it's essentially a multipurpose building.
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Old May 11th, 2016, 05:39 PM   #7542
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By contrast, here is a video of Slussen that I took back at a similar time in fact. This is why I say no one should praise slussen or ever, in a civilised conversation use it as an example of anything beyond "decay at the heart of one of Europe's most beautiful cities". This is why I say his tone seems particularly harsh towards Japan. He gave areas and stations like this a free pass in his review of Stockholm.

That background music can make anything seem ominous.
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Old May 11th, 2016, 05:56 PM   #7543
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That background music can make anything seem ominous.
Watch it without sound then. I didn't commentate or anything, and tell me that Slussen doesn't look like a hole, and yet it was held up as an example in his post. There are many, many other examples of cross-platform interchanges that could be used, why use a hole like that?

Take a look at his glowing and rather uncritical review of Stockholm and contrast that with his reviews of systems in Japan and try to tell me he's not biased - especially when you read the following statement, which is not true given emissions controls in Japan being very strict (if he'd researched at all).

Stockholm review here.

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Originally Posted by Urbanrail Blog
What I noticed most strongly in Sendai is the large amount of old buses. In this respect, Japan seems to be decades behind Europe and North America. High-floor buses we can hardly remember they once existed on urban lines, are rather common here, and not to think about the diesel emissions. Wasn't Tokyo once associated with climate change and how we should save the world?
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Old May 12th, 2016, 02:40 AM   #7544
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Honestly I don't find his reviews as critical or offensive as you guys seem to. He is pointing out differences, some of which seem quite shocking, for a country that is arguably the world leader in rail transit. For example, I imagine the extremely utilitarian nature of infrastructure and the overall aesthetics of Japanese cities, which are by-and-large products of the era in which Japan was booming from the 1960s to 1980s, and also reflective of a different set of cultural values, might be off-putting to someone familiar with the immaculate picturesqueness of Switzerland. In some ways, Japan is a "bizarro world" alternate universe of transit where, given the relative isolation and lack of technical and organizational interchange from other countries coupled with a nevertheless extremely high degree of sophistication, has led to a high degree of transit endemism not found anywhere else in the world. To me it is informative and interesting to hear a well informed western perspective on Japanese transit.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 03:14 AM   #7545
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I don't think he is well-informed. Given he has made a number of elementary mistakes that a simple Wikipedia search would have been sufficient to correct (as well as a timetable search on Jorudan or similar as well) I don't se him as any authority on the subject he writes on given he is meant to be a transit enthusiast. Equally, he comes from Berlin not Switzerland - hardly the mark of picturesque given how run-down a lot of the city is (and the wall-to-wall graffiti of the transit system).
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Old May 12th, 2016, 03:15 AM   #7546
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Frankly his writing comes off as immature, lacking perspective, and yes, amateurish. His over the top use of adjectives e.g. he labels a station "rather run-down" after seeing water stains on the walls of an underground station (on the train side, mind you). I reckon he is showing a tendency of some Westerners to judge Japan based on their preconceptions of non-Western countries/cultures (i.e. inferior)- when something in Japan measures up quite favorably to conditions in their native lands (or heaven forbid, better!), out comes the nitpicking of small details, so as to restore equilibrium in their minds.

But in the end, it's just a blog of an amateur, so he can write whatever he wants. One would hope he keeps the superfluous editorializing out of his print guidebooks, and stick to objective details, like headways, route details, etc.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 04:18 AM   #7547
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Perhaps you are right but I do find that some of his more critical comments are spot on. For example, the throne seats in the center of the Tokyo monorail ARE awkward just as he says. The complicated through running arrangements are a sight to behold and make railfanning interesting, but the timetables and fare structures are more complicated than what is found elsewhere in the world for example on the RER.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 05:45 AM   #7548
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Critical comments are fine, but you must back them up- for example, the seating on the monorail is a compromise, because the alweg design in this example requires equipment to intrude into the passenger compartment. As for through-running- the way it is run is not by accident- it is a product of the operational environment (by nature extremely dense and demanding) and needs of the passengers- who are 99% Japanese and have the intellectual capacity to comprehend the system. Btw, it was SNCF and RATP who went to Tokyo around 1970 for hints on how to run the RER system. Swiss Railways later also came to observe the through running operations of Keikyu/Toei/Keisei, though I am sure they are loath to admit it...
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Old May 12th, 2016, 07:12 AM   #7549
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I do agree that after reading and following Robert Schwandl's posts on Japan as they come out he seems much more critical than normal on the transit there. It blew my mind that he called the Sendai Subway Tozai line trains "pretty ugly anyway" which is far from the case IMHO. When he said that Shibuya is "the most horrible part of Tokyo (very loud and huge screens everywhere)" I rolled my eyes and mentally suggested he visit to Montana instead. He was pretty clueless for a "educated" tourist railfan on railfan matters such as not being able to find stations, being aware the more well known through operations between companies or the existence of the New Shuttle, etc. That being said his site's Asia coverage is very clueless to begin with particularly in China but I digress.

However, I think to a small extent he was disappointed at what he saw in Japan which perhaps he heard was the land of hyper frequent suburban trains and freakishly large stations that no rail system can ever match. Some of that narrative is true (eg Shinjuku, Yokohama sta. and Chuo, Yamanote, Toyoko Lines etc) but many lines and stations are not as impressive as the hype lends them to be. I was quite taken aback by the 10-15 min mid day frequencies many of these lines have. It seems almost... normal. The "rather run-down" comment on stations most likely stems from the common perception that Japanese stations are clean spotless. He probably expected the stations to be top to bottom spotless. In most Western systems stations are expected to be dirty. I think it just comes down to managing expectations of systems that you have only heard about but never been to. Of course he definitely be more objective with his word choice.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 09:28 AM   #7550
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He was wrong about some frequencies though and/or not considering the operational environment. 10 min service, for me anyway, is the gold standard tuag frequency and has been studied in the literature when Co sidering commuter pain (wait time) vs attractiveness of service and ability to capture mode share. If the line frequency drops to 15 mins it is on lesser used portions and only at the weekend. The toyo rapid is a good example of that (10 mins off-peak during the week and 15 off-peak weekend). Take a look at the neighbourhoods that the line runs through and it becomes clear why this is the case.

This is what I mean though - not objective. He didn't cite the time of day of frequency or post average frequency. He doesn't seem to object to the 20 min off-peak frequency during the week of the Berlin S-bahn on outer sections either. In Japan due to the need to generate profit for transit (or at least as much as possible) the frequency of running is far more "optimised" compared to most other places in the world. Whilst other countries are happy to bleed red on transit, Japan is not and that is reflected in the transit itself.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 11:33 AM   #7551
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This is what I mean though - not objective. He didn't cite the time of day of frequency or post average frequency. He doesn't seem to object to the 20 min off-peak frequency during the week of the Berlin S-bahn on outer sections either. In Japan due to the need to generate profit for transit (or at least as much as possible) the frequency of running is far more "optimised" compared to most other places in the world. Whilst other countries are happy to bleed red on transit, Japan is not and that is reflected in the transit itself.
This. You need to look at the operational environment to get the "why" of something. Unfortunately, what we are getting on that blog is only the "what" and maybe some "how". Maybe it is too much to ask. But we can get some good explanations of the "why" right here on this forum:-)
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Old May 12th, 2016, 06:17 PM   #7552
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That being said his site's Asia coverage is very clueless to begin with particularly in China but I digress.
Is that right? There appears to be an updated map of every metro system in China and Taiwan.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 07:06 PM   #7553
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I still don't understand how someone could claim to be the end-all-be-all authority on world metro/rail systems, and not understand/know/try to research why Japan's rail systems are the way they are.

The dual-gauge conundrum. Through-running. Limited express services all the way down to 3 station spur lines. (and I haven't even left Yokohama yet!)

No other place in the world relies on it's rail system to move that many humans around en masse.

Here's what happens when a substation fire takes a 4 kilometer section of rail out of commission on only ONE line for example.


This was almost my reality this morning; I decided to head to work 45 minutes earlier because I wanted to eat a proper breakfast!
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Old May 12th, 2016, 09:02 PM   #7554
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Guys, these blog posts are more of a journal documenting his first impressions, covering a lot of area in a short amount of time. I don't fault him for not taking the time to research his observations, yet. I presume, the research will happen between now and when his books are published. Besides, if you think his reactions to Japan are harsh read his blogs about his travels in the US.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 11:59 PM   #7555
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Originally Posted by Svartmetall View Post
This is what I mean though - not objective. He didn't cite the time of day of frequency or post average frequency. He doesn't seem to object to the 20 min off-peak frequency during the week of the Berlin S-bahn on outer sections either. In Japan due to the need to generate profit for transit (or at least as much as possible) the frequency of running is far more "optimised" compared to most other places in the world. Whilst other countries are happy to bleed red on transit, Japan is not and that is reflected in the transit itself.
Most western transit aficionados know and are familiar with the Berlin S-bahn and their expectations are quite in line with reality. Japan to western rail fans definitely has an air of hype and mystic that can lead to disappointment if you are not readily familiar with the systems there. Also a lot of the systems outside of Kanto, where he toured, are not "raking in the cash" or making money at all. Like I said it is about managing expectations, not every Japanese rail system is like Tokyo and not every rail line is like Yamanote. Of course this is just his personal blog and what is written is reflected by his personal feelings about the system. He can write more objectively but is not obligated to. It is not a scientific paper on transport engineering or something, it is just his opinion.

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Is that right? There appears to be an updated map of every metro system in China and Taiwan.
Yes but is every project under advanced construction on there? Shenzhen has 5 lines under construction and not a single one is on the map. The author has a tendency to not accept sources and updates written in a non-romance language.

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Old May 13th, 2016, 02:02 AM   #7556
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Most western transit aficionados know and are familiar with the Berlin S-bahn and their expectations are quite in line with reality. Japan to western rail fans definitely has an air of hype and mystic that can lead to disappointment if you are not readily familiar with the systems there. Also a lot of the systems outside of Kanto, where he toured, are not "raking in the cash" or making money at all. Like I said it is about managing expectations, not every Japanese rail system is like Tokyo and not every rail line is like Yamanote. Of course this is just his personal blog and what is written is reflected by his personal feelings about the system. He can write more objectively but is not obligated to. It is not a scientific paper on transport engineering or something, it is just his opinion.
No, third sector railways don't, but the big private railways outside of Kanto are definitely okay.

Rail in Japan doesn't stop at Kanto, I would say that most larger cities have a decent rail offering and many are quite impressive on a global scale in exactly the same way as Tokyo is - Sapporo and Sendai manage quite well on their own and Sapporo in particular has a nice looking subway system. Fukuoka/Kitakyushu are large, have some impressive systems there given the metropolitan size, The Keihanshin network is of course the equal to Tokyo (and is largely doing okay money-wise). Nagoya even has a rail system to rival London in its scope as well at least as far as route extent goes (and money isn't an issue for Kintetsu or Meitetsu let alone JR Central). Heck, even Hiroshima has a nice system, and is recently having new rolling stock etc.

The thing is, his opinion is, as everyone else is saying, rather misplaced and he comes from the standpoint of being misinformed. Given he is going to attempt to write a BOOK on this subject, one would hope that he would be better informed as to how the railways in Japan work. Elementary mistakes should not happen even in an informal blog when one considers this.

Also, I don't know why you think "Western" train aficionados are familiar with the Berlin S-bahn. What makes you think they are any more familiar with that system compared to a Japanese system? Is it because they're "westerners"? In which case, Japanese railfans should of course be equally as familiar with Chinese/Korean systems, right? No, sorry I don't buy that one. If you're a fan of railways, as I am, one tends to find out as much as possible about every system, not just ones that belong to countries of your race... Never understood the obsession of the Chinese in particular in viewing "westerners" as a large homogeneous blob.
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Old May 13th, 2016, 02:19 AM   #7557
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If you're a fan of railways, as I am, one tends to find out as much as possible about every system, not just ones that belong to countries of your race...
That's not really how it works. People gravitate towards things they readily understand; places they have visited or are likely to visit in the future; subjects about which information is easily obtained in languages they understand. This is true for rail fan and non-rail fan alike. It is not tribalism, just human nature.

When it comes to "Western" train aficionados, it is axiomatic that in general one would expect them to be more familiar with systems such as Berlin, London, Paris and NY than with the Beijing Subway or the Tokyo Metro, for the reasons stated above.
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Old May 13th, 2016, 02:36 AM   #7558
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That's not really how it works. People gravitate towards things they readily understand; places they have visited or are likely to visit in the future; subjects about which information is easily obtained in languages they understand. This is true for rail fan and non-rail fan alike. It is not tribalism, just human nature.

When it comes to "Western" train aficionados, it is axiomatic that in general one would expect them to be more familiar with systems such as Berlin, London, Paris and NY than with the Beijing Subway or the Tokyo Metro, for the reasons stated above.
Why would they, when information is in local languages in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, be more averse to finding information about China, Japan or Korea? I just don't get it. For me information is just as difficult in Korean as it is in Italian, and given that Asia possesses some of the largest metro systems in some of the largest cities in the world, coupled with the expansion of metro systems in China, any fan will find it interesting for no matter where they are from...
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Old May 13th, 2016, 02:50 AM   #7559
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Why would they, when information is in local languages in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, be more averse to finding information about China, Japan or Korea? I just don't get it. For me information is just as difficult in Korean as it is in Italian, and given that Asia possesses some of the largest metro systems in some of the largest cities in the world, coupled with the expansion of metro systems in China, any fan will find it interesting for no matter where they are from...
It goes without saying that if someone speaks a Romance language like French or Spanish, they will have a much easier time trying to figure something out in Italian than in Korean. Plus, most European rail service providers have decent websites in English. The same cannot be said for Chinese subway companies.

Generally speaking, people do not go out of their way to inconvenience themselves out of the spirit of curiosity. I can't speak for you, but for most of us, time is an exhaustible resource.
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Old May 13th, 2016, 02:55 AM   #7560
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It goes without saying that if someone speaks a Romance language like French or Spanish, they will have a much easier time trying to figure something out in Italian than in Korean. Plus, most European rail service providers have decent websites in English. The same cannot be said for Chinese subway companies.

Generally speaking, people do not go out of their way to inconvenience themselves out of the spirit of curiosity. I can't speak for you, but for most of us, time is an exhaustible resource.
Haha, if you have a passion or interest in something then you find time. I am a scientist at Sweden's most prestigious research institute so work those fun hours scientists do, and I have time to look. This guy makes books about subways and sells them for money. Therefore if I can find basic information about systems then he clearly should.

Additionally whilst knowing a romance language helps it only covers a small portion of European rail systems. The Moscow subway is a must for rail fans too, but linguistically that is rather tricky. Good English language resources are harder for that than for Japanese systems where Wikipedia has very extensive information - certainly enough to get someone started.
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