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Japan’s Most Congested Train Lines
[2018.08.01]

A recent report by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism on train crowding found that the 11 train lines that surpass the 180% congestion rate, set as the upper limit for peak travel hours, were all located in the greater Tokyo area.

Japan’s transport ministry announced on July 17 that 11 train lines in the greater Tokyo area exceeded the 180% congestion rate set as the upper limit during peak travel hours for passenger comfort. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism’s fiscal 2017 report on train congestion found the Tōzai Line on the Tokyo Metro had the highest congestion rate, at 199%. This is just shy of the 200% level described by MLIT as a situation where “bodies come into contact with each other and one feels considerable pressure.”

The congestion rate is calculated by averaging the level of crowdedness during a train line’s busiest hour. MLIT defines a 100% level as a situation where “all the seats in the train are taken and the standing passengers can find a strap to hold on to”; while 180% is a situation where “a passenger can, with some difficulty, read a folded newspaper.”

Other train lines that exceeded the 180% congestion rate in fiscal 2017 were the Nippori-Toneri Liner, the Tōkyū Den’entoshi Line, and eight JR East train lines, including the Sōbu Line, the Yokosuka Line, the Nanbu Line, and the Tōkaidō Line.

Japanese Train Lines Exceeding the 180% Congestion Rate in Fiscal 2017 (All in Tokyo Metropolitan Area)

Line Operating company Congestion rate
Tōzai Line Tokyo Metro 199%
Sōbu Line (local) JR East 197%
Yokosuka Line JR East 196%
Nanbu Line JR East 189%
Tōkaidō Line JR East 187%
Nippori-Toneri Liner Tōei Transportation 187%
Keihin Tōhoku Line JR East 186%
Saikyō Line JR East 185%
Den’entoshi Line Tōkyū 185%
Chūō Line (rapid) JR East 184%
Sōbu Line (rapid) JR East 181%

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

In Japan’s three major metropolitan areas, the average rate of train congestion was 163% for the 31 train lines in greater Tokyo, 125% for the 20 train lines in the Osaka area, and 131% for the 8 train lines around Nagoya. Whereas Osaka and Nagoya have made some progress in alleviating train congestion, Tokyo’s average congestion rate remains more than 30 percentage points higher.

The increase in train services and other measures to expand transportation capacity brought the congestion rate below 180% for Osaka and Nagoya in the late 1980s and for Tokyo in the early 2000s. In the years since, Osaka’s congestion rate fell below the 130% rate in 2009, while Nagoya’s rate has remained somewhere below 135% since 2012, so some progress has been made to alleviate train crowding. The Tokyo area saw a reduction of congestion in the early half of the 2000s to a level below 175%, but the steady influx of new residents has complicated the task in the nation’s capital. The rate of decline flattened out thereafter and has remained at a level of somewhere under 165% since 2011.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Kayabachō Station of Tokyo Metro Tōzai Line. © Jiji.)

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