How is it possible to create an efficient transport system in one of the most densely populated cities in the world? The 3rd Urban series features the city answering this question: Tokyo. When it comes to urban sustainability, “Tokyo’s pre-Olympic development rush extends to office towers, infrastructure, and new transit stations,” according to an article by Metropolismag.com. But what are the secrets and the challenges to overcome in managing to transport more than 40 million people every day?
EFFICIENCY VERSUS POPULATION DENSITY
Theurbanist.org discusses the Japanese Capital’s case, stressing that its success in being recognized as a model for transport efficiency is not a denial that the city experiences significant traffic congestion. Nevertheless, “the city has planned world-class pedestrian infrastructure with sound walls, frequent storefronts, and tons of placemaking. Plus, in places where pedestrians do interact with cars, motorists follow signage, the law, and human decency and yield to pedestrians. Motorists do not block intersections let alone crosswalks.”
This is partly cultural, but also significantly due to optimum strategic city planning. An article by CNN travel describes this first class transport system, “Tokyo’s rail system is legendary. Super-fast, super-punctual, super-everything. Some 102 train lines, an estimated 14 billion passengers per year. By most measures, Tokyo should take first place on anyone’s list of best metros.”
HUGE SUCCESS, HUGE CHALLENGE
But the huge success in being efficient and clean has gained the public transportation system more users, which in turn carries the challenge of constantly having to optimize by adjusting to the growing demand. In this regard, the government is always monitoring new alternatives and solutions to avoid rush hour overwhelming the metro lines, among other means of transportation.
“Tokyo’s urban development sheds light on the successes and challenges urban areas have faced through the years. The evolution of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area is seen as an example of how urban centers could proceed to address people’s needs,” says Panmore Institute. It is important to maintain a high degree of flexibility when addressing new challenges, while remaining efficient in fulfilling the current needs of the population.
Accordingly, population remains the biggest and most important challenge the city faces. In economic terms, there is a high dependency on the capital. This translates into a huge responsibility for its infrastructure, as it must be safe enough to guarantee safety for the lives of citizens in case of a natural disaster.
In terms of transport, “the result of this high population is overcrowding. Tokyo’s roadways, pedestrian lanes, and other public spaces experience daily overcrowding as people flock to the area during peak hours,” says Panmore Institute.
LESSONS FOR MEXICO
Tokyo is also a great example that proves privatization of public services is not inherently bad. Curbed New York stresses that “if privatization looks anything like Tokyo, then it may not be so bad. In the Japanese metropolis, the city’s rail lines are run in tip-top shape by a handful of private companies.
If Tokyo leads the list of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, Mexico’s capital has also managed to rank into the Top 10. Nevertheless, instead of its public transport system being praised, Mexico takes the award for being the most congested city as its citizens take up to 66 percent percent more time to complete any distance due to traffic, according to Cabify’s Country Manager, Alejandro Sisniega. Are the solutions implemented in Tokyo applicable to Mexico City? It certainly seems to be worth a try.