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Posts from the "Japan" Category

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Automated Underground Bike Parking in Tokyo

 
From Japan Probe via Gizmodo comes this video of an automated underground bike garage at a Tokyo commuter train station. For a single-use fee of 100 yen (about $1) or 1,800 yen for a monthly pass, customers roll their bikes onto a platform and use a control panel to have them whisked away to a rack within the 9,400 spot facility. The video shows that it takes the system 23 seconds to retrieve the reporter's bike. (As our tipster noted, if you liked "Brazil," you'll love this clip.)

Could this also be a solution for other cycling cities where space is at a premium?

Video: nihonnogenki/YouTube

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Traffic Jam on a Petri Dish

This one comes to Streetsblog via the Sightline Institute's Daily Score, a blog covering environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest.

Why do traffic jams materialize for no apparent reason? In an effort to answer that question, here's a surprisingly simple experiment cooked up in Japan by the University of Nagoya's "Mathematical Society of Traffic Flow:" 


If you are the kind of transportation geek who finds this sort of thing fascinating then you'll also really love this web-based traffic simulator out of Germany. But "prepare to lose your afternoon," says Sightline's Brad Plumer:

A few years back I wasted hour after hour playing with the java settings, and watching "traffic" jams materialize and melt -- just like in real life.  My favorite quirk:  for one lane-narrowing scenario, I could make traffic flow along beautifully at 40 miles per hour, but seize up like glue at either 20 mph or 60 mph.  Another fave (and very relevant to congestion pricing debates) was letting traffic flow along smoothly at, say 1,400 "cars" per hour, and then increasing traffic volumes to 1,500 -- and watching the traffic jam crystallize within moments.

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Young Japanese Just Say No to Cars

sputtering_sales.gifNow for some good news: Car culture is on the wane, at least in Japan. The Wall Street Journal reports that car sales in Japan are down 31 percent since the peak in 1990, and not only because of stagnant population growth. The newest generation of would-be buyers, it turns out, just doesn't think cars are all that necessary:

A survey last year of 1,700 Japanese in their 20s and 30s by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's biggest business newspaper, discovered that only 25% of Japanese men in their 20s wanted a car, down from 48% in 2000. The manufacturers' association found that men 29 years old and younger made up 11% of Japanese drivers in 2005, roughly half the size of that group in 1993.

What's the automotive industry to do in the face of such a strong downward trend? Update the brand, of course:

Auto makers are devising marketing efforts to appeal to young Japanese men and women but have seen limited success. Toyota Motor Corp. last fall sponsored a public test drive of its vehicles on the Tokyo waterfront and plans more. The company is trying to connect with the computer-savvy generation through its Web site www.gazoo.com, which features "drive date" video downloads. Filmed from a driver's perspective, the videos let a viewer go on a day drive with a young, female Japanese model as they drive together along scenic, congestion-free roads.

Japanese car makers are convinced that the future of their domestic market lies in gimmicky models like Nissan's Pivo 2 prototype, which the article describes as "a three-seat electric car, with a bubble-like rotating cabin, that is capable of driving sideways to slip easily into a parking space." Good luck with that, Nissan.

Before you start despairing that youth culture here in America will be stuck in Pimp My Ride mode for the foreseeable future, consider the forecast of Tom Lane, an American who runs Nissan's overall product strategy. In an article that appeared on CNN Money in January, Lane predicted that disaffection with the auto will hit Europe and the U.S. soon enough:

The population in Europe is aging too, and Lane sees similar ennui spreading there. As car ownership becomes more expensive and cities increasingly impose congestion pricing on car usage in center cities, he sees car owners switching to mass transit for their daily commute, and then renting cars for longer trips.

"The U.S. is headed that way," he says. "The challenge for us, going forward, is a more interesting offer. Doing a better Sentra or an Altima isn't going to do it."

Hey, maybe one of those rotating cabin bubble numbers will do the trick.

Thanks to reader Eddie Hernandez for the WSJ link

Graphic: The Wall Street Journal

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Pedestrian-Only Fifth Avenue: Tonight, a Three Hour Test

Tonight is the Museum Mile Festival. From 6:00 to 9:00 pm, twenty-three blocks of Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 105th Streets will be closed to traffic for the event billed as "New York's Biggest Block Party." Admission to the museums is free and there are all kinds of events, workshops and street performances.

Project for Public Spaces got this festival started back in 1978 along with the nine museums that line New York City's "Museum Mile." The main goal was to spur the development of new museum audiences and increase support for the arts during the fiscal crisis of the 1970's. But the festival also shows how great an asset New York City's streets can be when they are not used soley for the movement and storage of motor vehicles. 

In Tokyo, the equivalent of Fifth Avenue is called Ginza. The entire Ginza is closed to cars not just once a year, but every weekend, all weekend long. I was in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago and took this picture:

Ginza_Tokyo_Japan_ek_PPS

It is easy to imagine New York City doing the same thing on Fifth Avenue or sections of Broadway on weekends. If you make it to this evening's festival, you will get a sense of how great this could be.