The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Our Mission: Monkeywrench the Anti-Transit Forces

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Monday, December 30, 2002

Wendell Cox is Not Mediocre -- He's Just Average -- 9

"It is the unfortunate destiny of the ridiculous to be subject to ridicule."
James Howard Kunstler

"Truth passes through three phases: 1) It is ridiculed. 2) It is violently opposed. 3) It is accepted as self-evident." Albert Schopenhouer

From the Cabalmaster:

The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal has illustrated that Wendell sometimes mixes a little “boilerplate” together with all that fudge. Now to one of the more remarkable communications we've received, with reference to Tokyo (. . . we read the mail and, oh boy! . . .):

“GO TO [“The Public Purpose,” Urban Rail Success Stories: Tokyo”], AND TAKE A LOOK AT THIS:

“’Virtually all rail service is grade separated metro or commuter rail (little or no light rail)."


We've concluded that Wendell Cox and his fact checkers (if any) have some explaining to do.

It is not -- repeat, NOT -- true that “virtually all” of Tokyo’s rail service is “grade-separated,” and that there is “little or no light rail.”

---The ONLY fully-separated rail lines in and around Tokyo are the subway lines (which are mostly underground -- naturally), and a few railway lines built relatively recently as “suburban” extensions of the subway system. (There is one location where subway trains may be seen, on “subway” track,” at a grade crossing. We’ll tell you about this in due course, but we’re not going to do Wendelll’s homework for him.)

“Considering the intensity of services which they operate, it may come as a surprise to those who have not visited Japan to learn that the commuter lines serving [Tokyo] have many level crossings. The flighting of trains into slow and fast groups or ‘bundles’ can be helpful in allowing road barriers to be raised for road traffic” (Squeezing Capacity Out of Commuter Lines,” Satoru Sone, 1990. In “Developing Metros 1990.” Sutton, UK: Reed Business Publications).

It is true that the various operators have invested large sums for grade separation over the past several decades, but full separation of all rail lines in the Tokyo region lies far in the future.

---”Light Rail” as a mode distinct from streetcar or heavy-rail lines does not exist in Japan (where “LRT” refers to upgraded and modernized streetcar lines). Much of the “commuter rail” mileage in the Tokyo region (and other large Japanese metropolitan areas) cannot be classified as “light rail” or “heavy rail” in any meaningful way.

Japanese law recognizes two broad categories of conventional rail lines: “tetsudo” (railways) and “kido” (tramways). The primary distinction is that “kido” may be built within the alignment of public roads, and do not necessarily have car-floor level platforms (the universal “tetsudo”) practice. These categories overlap to a considerable extent. For example, most subway lines are built under “railway” licenses, but the Osaka system was built under a “tramway” license.

Some Tokyo-area rail lines were built by the government; others were built by private companies which were nationalized. Still others were built by private companies which escaped nationalization. These lines were worked by steam locomotives when built, and were later electrified. The government railway system was later privatized, and Tokyo-area lines are operated by the East Japan Railway (“JR-East”).

Many other lines were opened with electric traction. Some of these were built under “railway” licenses, but the majority were built under “tramway” licenses. In the Tokyo and Osaka regions, there is one basic railway “specification” that distinguishes operators with “railway” heritage from those with “tramway” heritage (we’ll tell you about this later, but not today -- do your own homework, Wendell!).

A double-track electric railway, with level crossings and car-floor level platforms and no in-street operation. That describes MetroLink in St. Louiis . . . and most Tokyo-area rail lines. If MetroLink is “light rail,” why are the Tokyo lines not “light rail”? If a line opens in a configuration that is clearly “light rail,” and is then gradually upgraded , at what point does it cease existence as “light rail” and begin life anew as “something else?” Your Favorite Transit Pundits doubt that anyone at “The Public Purpose” or “Demographia” would have any idea how to begin addressing these questions.

If you’d like to read up on the subject of Japanese rail transport, “Literature about Transportation in Japan” provides an extensive bibliography. (See:

Comments: Post a Comment