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

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Friday, March 28, 2003

Some Monorailistas Think "If It Ain't in English, By Golly It Ain't Real!"

"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. In the United States, rail is currently passing through Phase Two.

From the Cabalmaster:

Here is a member of the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal busily at work picking on defenseless monorailistas...note yellow book on left with "squigly" lines, e.g., Japanese source materials...

A news item from Chiba, Japan on has created a bit of a snit among monorail enthusiasts on comment boards in Texas, among other places. Even our friends at The Monorail Society couldn't quite bring themselves to get the story exactly right , scroll down.

No surprise; The Monorail Society didn't get the Dubai story right, either. But check out this excerpt from the tMs posting:

"A panel may be established to deal with financial restructuring, cost saving measures, and as an unlikely last resort, closure and dismantling of the system."

"May" be established?

Did somebody say "denial?"

The "Chiba Urban Monorail Investigation Committee" was established, did conduct public hearings and did present a report to the Governor of Chiba Prefecture -- available online!

Other, more zea . . . er, committed . . . monorail enthusiasts have done their best to discredit the story. One, according to an FOC, has crowed that he did a web search using every combination of words, and found "ZERO (umm, NADA, ZILCH, POOF, NOTHING!)" about the story.

Hmmm . . . wonder what language he performed this search in? You can bet that he didn't search in Japanese. Which brings us to a . . .

Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal exclusive!! How to search for the Chiba Monorail story -- IN JAPANESE!!!

This can be done in a few steps, with bit of "cut and paste," using Google! It works with both Windows and Macs, and no, you don't need Japanese software or a Japanese browser!! (So simple that even Wendell could do it . . .)

Have we piqued your curiosity yet?

Computers and browsers are all different, so we can't guarantee that this will work (especially not with older software). But if you follow the directions, and cross your fingers, it should.

1. Click on the link to the Monorail Committee report above. The window will read "teigensyo.pdf"

2. Open a second browser window, and go to .

3. Click "Advanced Search."

4. Change the "Language Return Pages Written In" selection to "Japanese," and press "Google Search" (or your "return" key). You should then see a "Google Search" page with not much more than a search window and a radio selection; this should be set for "Search Japanese pages."

5. Go back to the Chiba Monorail Committee report. Scroll down on the title page until you come to the very last line (of three; the one above contains the numbers "14" and "11." Select all 16 characters (which are Japanese for "Chiba Urban Monorail Investigation Committee") and copy them. You'll have to use the "Copy" function in the Adobe Acrobat reader.

6. Paste the characters into the Google search field. This may not work the first time around, so if at first you don't succeed . . . It won't work at all UNLESS you have "pre-prepared" the search field (Steps 3 and 4 above).

We just tried this; it worked, and we got more than 400 "hits" (including the ones that Google does not display because they are "very similar" to the others). Looks like that monorail man . . . er, zea . . . er, supporter . . . didn't do his homework.

The link to the Monorail Committee website is:

If you click this, you'll get the home page, but all of the text will (probably) appear as gibberish -- EXCEPT the graphics. This page has little more than a reference to the summary report. However, if you click this link:

you MAY get a page that will permit you to go through the information compiled for the summary report. (If this doesn't work, try pasting the link directly into your browser field.)

You'll find a news brief about the Committee at: .

The "gibberish" problem can be avoided IF, having gotten your Google results page, you then click "cached" for each item you want to check. Instead of gibberish, you'll get readable Japanese.

Wanna surf for monorail pix?

There are two ways to do this. IF you could "cut and paste" from the PDF document without difficulty, simply copy the first 9 characters (Japanese for "Chiba Urban Monorail") and proceed as above. We just tried this, and got nearly 7,000 hits.

If cutting and pasting from the PDF proved dicey, open a Google window, follow steps 2-4 above, and simply type in "Chiba Monorail" The URL for the second "hit" should read

The first line below the link should read "..."

Immediately below this, copy the first nine characters -- identical to those in the link -- and paste them into the search field.

Characters 5 through 9 (the simplest-looking ones) phonetically spell out "monorail." Use these alone and you'll get more than 80,000 hits.

Neat, huh? And don't forget: you learned how to do this on the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal's blog!

Closure and dismantling of the Chiba monorail sounds unlikely, and Your Favorite Transit Pundits doubt this will occur. However, we note that closure is one of the alternatives under active study -- and that Japan has closed money-losing monorails before. It is therefore accurate to describe the current situation as "technically under threat of closure." (Monorail enthusiasts won't like to read this, but they've got one-track minds anyway.)

Intrepid websurfers who check the links above, and the one about the reformist governor of Chiba Prefecture . . . then stare blankly at the 31-page report of the "Chiba Urban Monorail Investigation Committee," may be wondering what all this is about.

The short answer is "politics."

A slightly longer answer: Japan is not as "rich" as most Americans believe. Its per-capita Gross Domestic Product is less than 80 percent of the U.S. figure (CIA World Fact Book figures, US: $36,300 ; Japan: $28,000 At the risk of oversimplifying, we Opinionated Ones will note a major issue in Japanese politics: "infrastructure" spending. Political leaders and established bureaucrats like big projects such as expressways, high-speed trains, monorails and so forth. These attract considerable opposition (and even -- gasp -- lawsuits!) from disgruntled NIMBYs (yes, there are such things in Japan) and others on grounds of corruption, waste and so forth. Political reformers want to cut "infrastructure" spending and use the money to strengthen Japan's social "safety net," which is not well developed compared to that in Western countries.

The Chiba monorail became a target following the election of Ms. Akiko Dômoto as governor in April 2001. Dômoto is a former television producer, noted for her coverage of environmental and women's issues. She entered politics as a member of the National Diet, Japan's parliament. She was asked by a citizen's group to run for governor against the "establishment" candidate. Although she had no funds for a campaign, she won -- a citizen's grassroots revolution, as she put it.

Not everybody in Chiba likes monorails. The system has attracted far less ridership than once forecast, leading to serious financial problems. Some American "monomaniacs" apparently don't get this. Unlike U.S. transit systems, the Chiba monorail was organized essentially as a for-profit company. No provisions were made for operating subsidy. You don't have to get very far in Business 101 to know that if your "for-profit" enterprise fails to earn a profit, then you've got big problems -- even if your losses amount to a relatively small fraction of your investment. You can't keep losing money forever without some means to offset those losses. That, in the case of the Chiba monorail, would require ongoing tax subsidies. But the Japanese political system and many individual Japanese strongly resist the idea of "subsidies."

Governor Dômoto is on record as wanting to reduce "infrastructure" spending and increase support for social needs such as education and care for the elderly. She's also on record as opposing plans for a 2-mile, $300 million monorail extension. But Dômoto also wants to increase public participation in government. The Monorail Investigation Committee found that the "tear down the monorail" faction accounted for just 26 percent of local residents. A large majority supported the extension if the cost can be reduced. Not only that, but a majority expressed support for tax subsidy of public transit. Sounds good, but we Opinionated Ones wonder whether the same people will support the tax increases or cuts in other services that this would require.

More than anything else, the closure option reminds all concerned that the current status quo -- operating deficits, no provision for subsidies, an ever-growing mountain of debt -- cannot continue.

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