SINGKIT - Notes from the editor (The Philippine Star) - October 12, 2014 - 12:00am

The Tokyo subway map looks like a painting from the Museum of Modern Art. Composed of 13 lines (with a total length of 310.3 kilometers) run by Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway with a combined 290 stations, the subway system transports almost nine million riders a day. It is an efficient, reliable transport service for the bustling city’s over 13 million residents. A bit of trivia: The Tokyo subway system started on Dec. 30, 1927 with a 2.2-kilometer run between Ueno and Asakusa and it was called the Ginza line.

Ticketing is all by machine (there is an English language option), although there are very helpful officers to assist lost and confused commuters, mostly tourists. A Suica card that one loads starting at 500 yen can be used throughout the system, even to get a cup of coffee and merienda at shops all over the city that have terminals to swipe the octopus card. It can be a bit daunting for first-time visitors, especially for promdis like us used to only one line, but navigating the Tokyo subway is a matter of carefully reading the map then following the color-coded signs to the exits or to where the platform of your connecting train is. Be prepared to walk though, and climb stairs, as not all areas have escalators or elevators (when there are though, you can be sure they’re in good working order).

The trains, like the stations and the rest rooms, are clean, the seats and arm straps not torn or soiled, and getting on and off does not threaten life or limb; you line up at designated spots on the platform, the train doors align perfectly with these marked spots, and everyone steps aside for passengers to disembark before they go into the train car. What a civilized way to get around a city! 

All that just makes me feel downright depressed – and angry – about our dismal MRT, especially with the news that service had to be stopped because of cracks in the tracks, twice in six days! That on top of incidents where doors open while the train is moving, train service stopped because the tracks were flooded and a train overshooting the end barrier.

The commuting public is being told to be patient, that new cars are going to be delivered next year, that repair of the tracks is being bidded out, as is a new maintenance contract. Hello – why only now? Did the problems all happen in one dark, dismal day? I realize those guys at the Department of non-Transportation and mis-Communication have air-conditioned SUVs or other luxury vehicles to whisk them around town, and only stoop to taking the MRT when challenged (and then doing so with a retinue of bodyguards and assistants), but what have the succession of supposedly smart guys at that department been doing aside from conducting studies, reviews of the studies and evaluations of the reviews, hiring a huge coterie of bright, adoring  boys and girls who know little or nothing of train systems and airports to do them?

Can they please roll down the window of their SUVs and hear what we the suffering “bosses” are saying? But perhaps we need to speak English with an accent for these bright guys to understand us. Or maybe we should do a study...


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