When Toyama City in western Japan was considering different alternatives for its development, it hit upon a good source of ideas: its citizens. Holding meetings and discussions with the people in the pop. 400,000 town helped City Hall decide that a Light Rail Transit (LRT) would be ideal for getting people around. The alternatives? To build massive parking centers and generally lose sight of the city center. What people felt was that as they get older, using cars would be less convenient, anyway.
"It was one of the most difficult tasks for the elderly who have not driven cars to go out into the town," said Yoshimitsu Kametani, the 78-year-old chairman of a citizens' group promoting the new trolleys: now passengers have more than doubled to 5,000 per weekday and jumped nearly five times higher to 5,600 on weekends and holidays.
Toyama City uses TLR0600 type trains from Niigata Transit jointly developed with Siemens. It runs on an old track from 1923 on the main street of this port city, and quickly celebrated 1 million users in 2006. In Japan, Toyama is seen as a front-runner using new trains on fully renovated infrastructure. But the key concept has been to promote the LRT project as part of a "Compact City" drive.
More comments and train-spotting photos below the fold.
Toyama City aimed for compact community renovation based on public transportation. Workers who commute to Toyama from other prefectures have been very satisfied with the LRT. There was much positive feedback, such as "The atmosphere of the streets has changed drastically, and it has become very pleasant to spend time in the city," "Very comfortable to ride on," "Development of the area along the LRT line will be essential for revitalization of Toyama City's urban area," "Sightseeing tour packages featuring LRT are possible."
"The success of the LRT system largely depends on whether operators are able to revitalize the areas along the line and make them attractive," notes Yasuhisa Nagayama at Osaka University.
Toyama's target is to raise the ratio of the citizen who live within 300-500m from trunk bus stops or from LRT stations to 40% of the city’s population in 10 years so that more citizen may use public transportation. The plan is challenging and important, according to Takashi Onishi at University of Tokyo
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp