There are several things that I like about the public transportation system in Japan. It's almost always on time, relatively quick, and clean enough that we don't have to examine the seats for various unpleasantries before sitting down. Very rarely do I ever have a problem with the system which has become my most effective means of transportation around the country. That said, there are some exceptions to the rule; particularly when it comes to Nagoya's circular Meijo Subway Line.
The Meijo Line got its start in 1965 with a stretch of track from Sakae to Shiyakusho, and by March, 1974 it had further expanded to run from Ozone to Aratama-bashi, finally reaching its current state in 1994. The final link in the Meijo Loop was completed a decade later, allowing trains to travel in continuous circles, rather than having to cycle back. The Nagoya City Subway has invested vast sums of money into their system and strives to meet the fluctuating demand for trains as time goes on.
That said, some very simple design flaws make the Meijo Line particularly frustrating for anyone that needs to transfer to another vehicle; be it another subway line, a train, or a bus. The problem isn't one of location, nor of train frequency, though … it's timing. The Meijo Line consistently misses connections at key transfer points by as little as 30 seconds, leaving hundreds of people waiting between 7 and 9 minutes for the next subway train to arrive, 16 to 30 minutes for the next above-ground train, and 15 to 40 minutes for the next bus. While this may not sound like an awful lot of time for most people, it adds up very quickly over the space of one month. In my case, I spend close to two hours a month just waiting for a train. That translates into roughly 24 hours a year, or 34,700円.
Of course, the importance of a lowly English Language Instructor is so minimal that it doesn't even register on Radar, but there must be people who are far more important that I who have become frustrated by the excessive and unnecessary wait times we're forced to endure at the various Meijo Line stations. Which is why after some scheduling and planning, I've devised a way the Meijo Line can be far more efficient for the people who use it.
110 Seconds and a Sign
Quite often when people are transferring from the Higashiyama Line to the Meijo, they miss the connection by 30 seconds or so. When I examine the schedules for both the Higashiyama and the Meijo Lines, it seems that there is a fundamental flaw in how much time people have to get from one platform to another. The same problem is seen with the Sakura Dori Line and, to a lesser extent, the Tsurumai Line. However, if the Meijo Line starts 110 seconds later in the day and moves all of it's scheduled arrival times back by the same number of seconds, then there will be a much greater chance of people going from one connection to another without excessive wait times. Heck, when it comes to my schedule, my two hours per month of wait time would be cut back to only 27 minutes!
But, naturally, the world does not revolve around me … yet.
Going further, one of the big issues that passengers have when they transfer to or from the Meijo Line is that no signs exist stating how much time there is between until a transfers' departure. Coming off the Meijo, if we can see there is only 30 seconds before our train or bus is to leave, then people would be less likely to push and shove past the throngs of incessantly slow pedestrians. Unlike most train stations where the staircases allow slow-moving people to walk shoulder-to-shoulder in rows of five, the Meijo Line staircases are serious bottle-necks, allowing only two people to march upwards. This means that the most impatient of us need to have several contingency plans in place to get past the innumerable hordes of mobile obstacles.
How people manage to do this day-in and day-out in the larger cities like Osaka and Tokyo is beyond me, as I'd likely suffer a severe case of claustrophobia and start swinging wildly until strapped into a straight-jacket. Either that, or I'd buy a car and complain about congestion, parking, and cyclists who get in my way….
Alas, I'm getting off topic.
Do you see problems like this with other transit systems in Japan? Have you ever sat down to see just how much time you've wasted waiting for a bus or train that shouldn't have left without you in the first place? Am I just too tightly wound and making a mountain out of a mole hill regarding the Meijo Line? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.