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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kyoto to Introduce Light Rail?

Kyoto LRT Test京の街走るかLRT

Is this yet another tease from the powers that be in Kyoto?

According to the Asahi Shinbun newspaper, Kyoto is seriously contemplating introducing multiple Light Rail Transit (LRT) routes.

But for the semantics of LRT, what the city is considering is reintroducing trolley service.

Kyoto was the first Japanese city to have a trolley network, which began service in 1912. Routes crisscrossed much of the city until 1978 when in the name of progress they were ripped up to make way for automobiles.

Now with an aging population, environmental concerns, and traffic congestion, the time would seem ripe for Kyoto to bring back trolleys in their 21st century incarnation.

The advantages of LRT are legion: low to the ground for easy entry and exit, environmentally friendly, fast, frequent, and compared to subways about one tenth the cost to install.

The usual suspects - delivery companies, the automobile industry, car owners who live along the proposed LRT routes - oppose the move. However, city hall has some powerful allies on its side this time around: the shotengai (shopping arcades) association.

The biggest obstacle is cost. At 20-30 billion yen (20-30 million US dollars) per kilometer, it is much less than even the "mini-subway" lines - but not insignificant. Moreover, because of debts incurred by the Tozai subway line - built under the previous administration - city finances are tight.

Three years ago, the city made similar pronouncements about moving away from a car-centric society.

We remain hopeful but wary.

Proposed Routes

Kyoto Station - Gion
Kyoto Station - Kawaramachi
Circle Line (Higashioji - Kitaoji - Nishioji - Kujo)
Demachinyanagi - Hakubaicho


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