When watching an Anime or reading a Manga series, one of the things that people notice is the predominance of mass transit. Japan has a rich system of mass transit, with a mix of high-speed rail, commuter rail, and subways that connect the entire country together. For people in the West, especially in the United States, this dependence on mass transit is completely foreign to us. The long history of the United States chronicles the rise and fall of mass transit and the rise of suburban sprawl and automobile dependence. In this edition of culture shock, I will explore Japan’s rich mass transit system and explain why we Americans see it as foreign, and I will delve into the special case of mass transit in Southern California.
Mass Transit in Japan
When watching an anime or reading a manga, it becomes quite apparent how ubiquitous mass transit is. In almost every single anime or manga out there, light rail, commuter rail, subways, and high-speed rail are showcased as the main mode of transportation to go from place to place. The ubiquity of mass transit in anime and manga is no accident; Japan has one of the most extensive mass transit systems on the entire planet. It is one of the rare places that have a mass transit system that is so well-developed that one can eschew a car and easily move from place to place.
|Mass transit is everywhere, even in|
|The girls of K-On used mass transit|
in several episodes.
Mass Transit in America
Americans are known as “car loving” people who depend on cars. Due to the dependance of automobiles in the United States, the dependence on mass transit to us is seen as very foreign. In America, we are stuck in an endless spiral where suburban sprawl makes it inefficient to use mass transit, so cars are used, and as more people use cars, there is more congestion on the roads. Congestion in turn forces people to move further from the main urban centers and it creates more congestion. As people are stuck in congestion they complain and they ask for more road expansion which comes at the cost of mass transit, bicycles, and other forms of alternative transportation.
|New York Subway|
|Cult of the Car, it can bring you|
sexy women and can improve your life
Southern California and the Rails
Southern California is a special case; I always seem to get a shocked response whenever I would point out that Southern California had one of the greatest mass transit systems in the United States from 1895 to 1951. With over 1,200 miles of track, the Pacific Electric was considered was one of the greatest mass transit systems on the entire planet. It was said that leaders from New York and London went to Southern California and they would use the Pacific Electric as inspiration to develop the incredible London Underground and the extensive New York Subway system. Many major cities were developed around the Pacific Electric stations.
|Pacific Electric trains, better known|
as the "red cars"
Right now, Southern California is going a renaissance with the light rail. The Metro has created 5 major train lines called the Gold, Red, Purple, Expo and Blue lines that are the spiritual successor to the Pacific Electric. Much of the track used by these light rail and subway are old track that was used by the Pacific Electric. With only 79.1 miles of track, it is only but a shadow of the giant 1,200 mile Pacific Electric system.
|The Red Line, the modern successor|
to Pacific Electric.
Culture Shock Series
Culture Shock #1 - School Uniforms