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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Davenport Community Rail Overpass - Japanese comparison

Local resident, Robert Haskett is very familiar with the Japanese commuter rail system and very kindly supplied information comparing the Barrie GO train line to a similar stretch near Osaka, Japan. 

Comparison of Similar Commuter Trains:  GO Transit and Japan Rail
Rail Line
GO Transit – Barrie line
Japan Rail – Gakkentoshi Line 1
Bradford to Union Station
Kizu to downtown Osaka
66 km
60 km
Usual Number of Cars per Train
Total Station Stops 2
7 (none in Metro Toronto)
27 (rapid trains stop at 14 stations)
Normal Travel Time
77 minutes
65 minutes (by rapid train 3)
Single Fare 4
$9.20 (equivalent)

Comparison prepared by Robert Haskett – information valid as of May 9, 2015

1.       Gakkentoshi line was selected not only because it is comparable to the Barrie GO line (I chose to compare from Bradford to Union Station since the distances are similar), but it is also the Japanese commuter line that I have used the most.  It is worth noting that in the literally 100s of times that I have taken Gakkentoshi line over more than 20 years of stays in Japan in all seasons, I have experienced only one delay longer than 10 minutes, and less than 5 delays of any duration.
2.       Excluding departure and arrival stations; although the average distance between stations on the Gakkentoshi line in Japan is about 2.1 km, in the more densely populated urban areas, stations are spaced at 1 to 2 km intervals.
3.       During rush hours, there are usually 4 rapid train departures per hour + 4 hourly departures of local trains (which stop at all stations); generally there are 4 hourly departures from all stations all day between approx. 6 a.m. and midnight. 
4.       In both Canada and Japan, discounted fares are available, e.g. day passes and monthly passes.


1.      Compared to current GO train service, the electrified Gakkentoshi commuter rail line in Japan provides faster, more frequent, cheaper service with many more stations to serve the communities and neighbourhoods along its entire route. 

2.      Stations are located to be within walking or bicycling distance of residents, such that car parking is generally neither available nor required at most stations.  On the other hand, all stations have large bicycle parking areas which can accommodate 100s of bicycles.

3.      As with TTC subway stations, when a station is established, it becomes a node for both residential and commercial development.  This results in increased ridership (and revenue) as well as increased economic activity which benefits the tax base.

4.      Generally, due to the quieter operation of electrified trains, there are no noise walls or other visual barriers.  Since level crossings are very common, rail lines in Japan do not represent such a barrier as they tend to in Canada.

5.      With such frequent, fast, convenient service provided for everyone who lives in proximity to the rail line, it is understandable why almost every commuter chooses the train over driving a car.

Question: It seems like a substantial amount of rail traffic wouldn't 4 tracks be needed to achieve this?

Answer: Only 2 lines are necessary, one for each direction, except at some stations.  In Japan, most stations have only the 2 lines.  Local trains make brief stops at all stations, whereas rapid trains bypass half or more of the less busy stations. 
Station stops in Japan are very short, usually just 30 seconds (think TTC subway stops). 

With the rapid deceleration and acceleration of electric trains, even with frequent service, with proper scheduling the rapid trains do not “catch up” to the local trains so often, such that additional lines are only required at 10% or maybe a little more of the stations along the entire route (depends mostly on frequency of train service and the local/rapid train balance). 

Thus, 2 additional lines are only required for very short distances in relatively few locations.  These additional lines are simply short sidings (one for each direction of travel) at selected stations where a local train would pull off onto a siding to allow a rapid train to pass it.  I think on the entire Gakkentoshi line (from the comparison above), even with 4 local and 4 rapid trains per hour, the rapid trains only catch up to and pass local trains a couple of times in the 60 km length of the line.

Note:  the full context is more complicated because not all trains run the entire length of the line since ridership further out from downtown Osaka is lower, hence there are many “short turn” trains such that train service is more frequent closer to the city than it is farther out, which is what one would expect.

Robert Haskett

Click here for a better view of the JR  East Group Railway lines network (shown above)  

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