Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Small Adventures #12

Time to talk about time. Rather, that is, traveling around in Tokyo. I work in Akihabara and this requires that I change trains. For this exercise, let's say that I want to start from Nakanoshima, one station from Noborito on the Nambu line. It's a three minute ride to Noborito. Then I have to walk up the stairs from the platform, through the ticket gates, 50 meters over to the Odakyu line entrance, down the stairs, through the gates, up more stairs to reach the correct platform heading to Shinjuku - takes maybe another 2-3 minutes if the crowds are light. Some 1-12 minutes later, the rapid train arrives (5 stops instead of the almost 20 for the local train) and it's then 20 minutes into Shinjuku. From there, I have to go through the Odakyu gate, through the JR gate, and maybe 100 meters to the stairs up to the Chuu-ou rapid line platform. Another 3-5 minute walk depending on the crowds. Wait 1-10 minutes for the Chuu-ou train, and then it's about 12 minutes to Ochanomizu, with one stop at Yotsuya (instead of the approx. 10 stops on the Chuu-ou local line or on the Sobu line). Cross the 3 meters of the platform to pick up the Sobu, and wait 1-8 minutes. Ride the Sobu 1-2 minutes to Akihabara, then it's down two flights of stairs and 50 meters of corridor to get outside. Another 3-5 minutes of walking. Depending on exactly when I first get out on the street, (since I'd have to get to the Nakanoshima station 1-2 minutes before the first train because the traffic barriers come down before the train arrives and I'd miss the train otherwise) it can be 50-60 minutes door-to-door, and requires changing trains 3 times. This is what you'd get for living outside the Tokyo loop.

(Nakanoshima station, with its accursed barrier arms.)

Now, assume you want to go the other way. Let's pick an obscure station like Fuchinobe. This will require going to Noborito again, then taking the Odakyu away from Shinjuku to Machida, then walking a block from the Machida Odakyu station to the Machida Yokohama station, and riding the Yokohama line 2 stops to Fuchinobe. Note that the walk in Machida will burn at least 3-5 minutes, preventing us from taking connecting trains too close together; same holds true in Noborito for the same reason).

(Noborito station, from inside the Nambu line looking toward the stairs to the Odakyu line.)

One other thing to note about Noborito is that there are 6 kinds of trains that pass through on the Odakyu line: 1) the local (stops at every station and occasionally waits 5 minutes at a station for connecting trains or to let faster trains pass by); 2) Semi-section express (skips some stations, but otherwise is just like a local train); 3) Express (stops at Noborito, Shin-Yurigaoka and Machida); 4) Rapid Express (skips Noborito but stops at Shin-Yurigaoka and Machida; 5) the Tama Express (just like an express but starts at a different station, not from Shinjuku); and 6) the Shinkansen (the bullet train; doesn't stop at any of the stations, but still passes through Noborito and thus gets in the way of our travels).

Basically, what we want from Noborito is the Express, but that runs erratically depending on the time of day. (The Tama express might also be an option with an additional connection to the Rapid Express in Shin-Yurigaoka, but with the timing involved is only viable once an hour.)

Got all that? Here are the schedules

Nambu Line from Nakanoshima to Noborito
(Departs -- Arrives)
11:35 ---- 11:38
11:47 ---- 11:50
11:57 ---- 12:00
12:07 ---- 12:10
12:17 ---- 12:20
12:27 ---- 12:30

Odakyu Express from Noborito to Machida
11:31 ---- 11:47 (Notice the big gap to the next train)
11:51 ---- 12:06
12:01 ---- 12:17
12:12 ---- 12:27
12:22 ---- 12:36

Yokohama local from Machida to Fuchinobe
12:04 ---- 12:11
12:12 ---- 12:18
12:19 ---- 12:25
12:34 ---- 12:41
12:42 ---- 12:48

If we started at 11:47 from Nakanoshima, we'd only have 1 minute to make the connection for the 11:51 in Noborito, and it takes closer to 3 minutes to cover the distance; even if there's no crowds and you run it's a bad risk, so it's better to take the 11:35 from Nakanoshima (remembering to get to the station at least 2 minutes ahead of time to cross the tracks before the barrier comes down). But now you're waiting at Noborito for 13 minutes for the 11:51 to arrive. This puts you into Machida at 12:06. Allow 5 minutes to walk between stations and you might get to the Yokohama line platform in time for the 12:12. You're then in Fuchinobe at 12:18. 41 minutes and two transfers, plus 2-3 minutes at the beginning and end to get across the tracks and through the stations. Assume 47 minutes minimum door to door.

If you find a sudden need to go to the toilet in Machida, the next train is at 12:19 and your total travel time jumps to 56 minutes.

Ok, we hit the streets at 11:34. The barrier across the tracks is down and we missed the 11:35 train from Nakanoshima. Next train is 11:47 (which we didn't want). We miss the 11:51 connection in Noborito, forcing us to take the 12:01. We're in Machida at 12:17. No way we could run through 2 ticket gates and 2 sets of stairs in 2 minutes to make the 12:19 connection, so now we're stuck waiting at the Yokohama line platform for at least 12 minutes for the 12:34 from Machida. We get to Fuchinobe at 12:41. That's over an hour door to door, just because we got out 1 minute later. Figure 70 minutes, compared to 47 minutes otherwise, all due to wait times at the platforms. Not only that, but if the idea was to get into Fuchinobe before 12:30, rather than being 12 minutes early, you're now 11 minutes late. Again, all because of a one-minute separation at Nakanoshima.

It's said that the U.S. is a nation of clock watchers, and that in Japan people are a lot more relaxed about time. That's not true when it comes to riding the trains, where timing is everything.

1 comment:

Bunny said...

I used to commute from shukugawawa to musashi-mizonokuchi to ikejiri-ohashi at the first company I worked at.
When they moved it was Noborito or Mukogaoka-Yuen to Yoyogi-Uehara. Back then, over the bridge the tracks weren't raised at all, all the way to Shimokitazawa. Express trains were evilly stuffed and barely faster.