Curses! Once again sekicho the supernoder has beaten me to it.
But this time I shall bury him with an avalanche of obscure trivia...
Obscure Technical Trivia
Strictly speaking, the Yurikamome
is not a monorail
elevated concrete track does look monoraily at first glance, but the
track is actually just a funnel
and the trains are supported by
two rows of rubber wheels. The rail in the center of the track
serves only to guide the train, not support it, so it doesn't
qualify as a monorail.
These contraptions are usually dubbed Automated Guideway Transit
in English, but the Japanese for once despaired of
converting that to katakana
, and hence the full name is
simply ゆりかもめ新交通 (Yurikamome Shin-Kôtsû
literally translated to English as "Yurikamome New Transport".
And then there's the first part of "AGT": the Yurikamome is
Tokyo's first fully automated transit system, controlled entirely
by computers with no drivers on board. This is actually not
even particularly new technology -- Japan's first AGT,
Kobe's Port Liner, opened in 1981, 14 years before the
Yurikamome -- but it still surprises many a tourist.
Obscure Historioeconomical Trivia
Before its 1995 opening, it was widely feared that the Yurikamome
would end up being yet another multibillion-yen boondoggle
The artificial island of Odaiba
, which it serves, had been
designed and constructed at prodigeous expense
economic crash and, much like London
's equally beleaguered
, there simply didn't seem to be enough demand to
The first few months of operation provided a slight sigh of
relief, as ridership hovered around 27000 passengers per day,
only a little less than the predicted 29000... but still
far, far less than the 80000 pax needed to be profitable.
However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was for once on
the ball, and in 1996 Odaiba was rezoned from pure business
and residential to also permit entertainment zones.
Tokyo may be next to the sea on the map, but before Odaiba,
effectively the entire coastline had been taken over by
an endless concrete strip of ports and warehouses. Promoted
as the Rainbow Town, the island provided Tokyo with a
strip of liveable seaside, and it became an instant hit.
Within one year, ridership doubled to 60000, and as
more and more of the restaurants, shopping malls,
exhibition centers and museums listed in sekicho's writeup
opened, the traffic kept growing and growing. On May 4th 1997,
during Golden Week, the system was completely maxed out
when 130,000 people tried to board in a single day.
And it wasn't just the island that they were going to,
the Yurikamome had become an attraction in itself. To
hoist itself from sea level to the Rainbow Bridge, the
Yurikamome does a rather spectacular 270-degree loop,
providing panoramic views of both mainland Tokyo and
Odaiba. Easily accessible and comfortable despite
its technological prowess, most islandgoers
continue to opt for the Yurikamome despite its high price,
with the fares of 180 to 370 yen of being nearly twice
that of a normal subway.
In the end it turned out that the white elephant was not
the Yurikamome but its competitor, the Tokyo Waterfront
Area Rapid Transit aka Rinkai-Fukutoshin
(臨海副都心) heavy subway line, designed to be Odaiba's
primary lifeline, which tunneled through
the seabed at nearly twice the price of the Yurikamome --
only to connect the dingy suburb of Shin-Kiba to
the equally dingy suburb of Osaki. Since no leisure
traveller in their right mind will opt for it, the TWR
has been reduced to angling for commuter traffic
between Chiba and Yokohama.
Forward to the Future
The Yurikamome's future looks brigh
t: at over 100,000
passengers per day, the Yurikamome is making a net profit
and will pay off its loans in full faster than the 20 years
originally anticipated. Operating frequency
, hours of
and number of trainset
s have been continually
revised upwards to accommodate for the ever-increasing
number of passengers.
Not content to rest on its laurels, there is now construction
in progress to extend the line from its current terminus
in Ariake to Toyosu on the Yurakucho subway line...
which, incidentally, will steal even more of the
Rinkai line's few passengers. Construction is expected
to be complete in 2005.
http://www.yurikamome.co.jp (official page)
http://www.jrtr.net/jrtr16/f15_iwata.html (slightly outdated but fascinating survey)