You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

End of line looms for Tokyo's 'seat-free' trains


TOKYO - Thirty years after their introduction, it will soon be the end of the line for seat-free trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area. 

The trains, which have seats that can be folded up to provide more standing room during rush hour, will be phased out by 2020 because new lines that started operating in recent years have eased commuter congestion and the carriage doors do not align with standard platform-edge doors.  

Just after 8 a.m. on a weekday morning in late January, a company employee in his 50s got off a JR Chuo-Sobu Line seat-free train at JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. "I'm used to these trains, but it's a pain when the train is empty and I can't sit down," he said with a wry smile.  

According to East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), the standing-only cars were introduced on the Yamanote Line in 1990. The fold-up seats were installed in two of the train's 11 cars. Another distinguishing feature was these cars had six doors on each side, rather than the usual four, to make getting on and off easier.  

Though there were complaints that these trains were inconvenient for elderly people and families with small children, the number of cars with fold-up seats peaked at 308 on five JR lines in fiscal 2006. The Tokyu Denentoshi Line also introduced the cars in 2005.  

However, JR's Yamanote, Yokohama, Keihin-Tohoku and Saikyo lines had all stopped using the cars by August 2014. In May this year, the Tokyu Denentoshi Line will finish using the fold-up seats in its trains.  

The Chuo-Sobu Line still operates these cars, but a JR East official said, "We'll replace them with different cars by the spring of 2020."  

The easing of in-train congestion is the biggest reason behind the disappearance of the seat-free cars.  

This decline is largely the result of the capital's train network having an increased capacity due to the opening of the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, the Tokyo Metro's Fukutoshin Line and other lines in recent years.  

Another factor behind the demise of the seat-free cars is their six doors do not align with standard platform-edge barriers, which are designed to line up with four-door cars. The transport ministry has called on railway operators to quickly install these platform barriers, especially at stations used by many commuters.  

"The seat-free cars were effective at a time when rush hours were so congested, but they've finished their role in society," said Fumihiko Nakamura, vice president at Yokohama National University and an expert in urban transportation planning. "I think future improvements to train cars will make them more comfortable, rather than more practical."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

US anglers seek out the infamous Bay of Pigs for  fly-fishing
US anglers seek out the infamous Bay of Pigs for fly-fishing

Crouching at the bow of a small motorboat, trying not to make a sound, I wonder if my Cuban guide, Juan Carlos, agrees that we make for a strange scene.  You see, we're very near where, more than half a century ago, a bunch of CIA-backed Cuban exiles tried - and failed spectacularly - to overthrow the Castro regime.   On this warm November...
Now on sale: multiresort passes for next ski season
Now on sale: multiresort passes for next ski season

Blooming trees may not be conducive to ski thoughts, but spring is a great time to plan next season on the slopes because multiresort passes go on sale at this time.  Multimountain passes give access (often unlimited) to several locations, and in recent years they have upended not just the way the ski industry sells lift tickets, but also how...
The marital benefits of a canceled flight
The marital benefits of a canceled flight

My husband had been on hold with the Delta agent for about 10 minutes when he began to visibly implode. His ears went from pink to an almost bioluminescent red; the veins in his neck seemed to pulse in time with the sheets of rain beating down on the terrace. “I know there’s a nor’easter,” Jeff said, pacing the taupe carpet...
This new mega cruise ship will have a Ferrari-branded racetrack
This new mega cruise ship will have a Ferrari-branded racetrack

Cruise passengers looking for a real ocean drive will have to look further than South Beach.  Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Joy, a ship the Doral, Fla.-based cruise line is building to sail in China, will be the first ever to feature a racetrack — from Ferrari, no less.   That’s in partnership with Scuderia...
How to avoid paying for a checked bag

Airfare is expensive enough as it is, but the added fees make things worse.  Some of the discount airlines (think: Spirit, WOW Air and Allegiant) charge for everything from seat selection to printing your boarding pass. Some airlines even charge for carry-on luggage any bigger than a purse or small backpack. But if there’s one thing airlines...
More Stories