This is a continuation of our last NTM report article set in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. After traveling on the Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad (Kotoden), the duo of Mr. Manabe and Mr. Doi discussed park-and-ride, car-sharing, and the soon-to-be-released electric vehicle (EV), the Nissan Leaf, while walking around the shopping district busy with cars. Mr. Manabe is the Company Director of Kotoden and also serves as a board member for Kagawa Nissan, and as the CEO of convenience store chain, Sunkus & Associates East Shikoku. Mr. Doi is in charge of product planning for the March, and Nissan's other compact cars. Here is the conversation these two had about the future of transportation in the compact city of Takamatsu.
Born in Kagawa prefecture in 1976. After graduating from the economics department of Hitotsubashi University, he returned to his home town after working at a consultancy company, an investment company, and the like. He is currently Company Director of Takamatsu Kotohira Electric Railroad, Company Director of Kagawa Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and Representative Director of Sunkus & Associates East Shikoku, Ltd. He is involved in the administration of regional infrastructure enterprises, and examines the new relationship between transportation/mobility and the region.
SCPS (Segment Chief Product Specialist) of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. Product Planning Head Office.
He was born in Tokyo in 1960. He joined Nissan Motors Central Research Center in 1985, and after working on automobile noise and vibration, ITS research and as a patent development strategy administrator, he currently supervises the product planning for small cars and is presently exploring new designs for cars that are geared toward the global market.
Manabe: At Kotoden we purchase and utilize old railroad cars from private railroads in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Because we repaint and put into service various old trains from lines such as Keio, Keikyu, the Nagoya subway and Hanshin, our lines are quite popular with railroad fans.
Doi: How long is the lifespan of a train?
Manabe: If properly maintained, a train will run almost indefinitely. At present, our oldest car is from the Taisho period (1912-1926) and an event is held once every two months where it is put into service. Next year will mark exactly one hundred years since the Kotoden first ran.
Doi: Is the morning commute busy?
Manabe: It is. Our trains are at most four cars long, but all cars will be packed to capacity. Each car holds about 135 people so, with four cars combined, that's a little over 500 people riding. Such a low cost method of transportation for that number of people doesn't exist outside of rail.
Doi: Since train lines are basically limited to within the city, if you are going to travel beyond that it's by car, right? Because of this, are people required to use cars outside of the city?
Manabe: Yes, while Japan Railways does run through places like Marugame in Kagawa, I think nearly all travel outside of cities is done by car. Tourists that come to visit udon shops are on the rise but there is a limit to how much we can increase the number of people who use Kotoden with tourism alone. Rather, having those who live here switch to a train commute one day each week would lead to a greater increase in the number of riders. We also support park-and-ride whereby people park their car in a parking lot close to the station, and board from there. For these riders parking fares are reduced.
Doi: It seems you are already quite advanced as far as mobility goes! What is the difference in price?
Manabe: You save about 30% by using park-and-ride. There is an opinion that in rural areas, because the car is the basic means of transportation, there is still resistance to riding a train. However, about two years ago when the price of gas started to soar, the number of people using Kotoden also increased suddenly. Economic factors have a large effect on mobility choices.
Second or third cars will be shared or rented
Manabe: In Takamatsu, shopping districts and condominiums are being built in close proximity in order to encourage people to gather in the center of town. In doing so, I think there will be restrictions on space, and it will be unrealistic for one family to have two or more cars. As a result I expect there will be more chances to have people utilize our public transportation systems. Families owning just one car and choosing to share or rent for other occasions will become the reality.
Doi: Looking at the current situation in regional cities, when you include light cars, many families have two or three cars, right?
Manabe: That's right. In Takamatsu, when looking at the number of people who use cars, in most of those cases the car is owned. However, I believe this will slowly begin to change in the future. In cases where people have the opportunity to rethink their lifestyle, such as when a child goes off to Tokyo for college, it's likely that people will begin to wonder if two cars, or cars with such high specs are really necessary. I believe that the arrival of EVs will also provide a chance to rethink our lifestyle and vehicles. In these times, I believe that it is our job to provide many choices so people can pick a transportation method that fits them perfectly.
Doi: In that sense, it will be important for people like you and the other young people who will be taking charge of the future of Takamatsu, to think about the vision of the city for the next generation.
Manabe: Yes, urban development tends to focus only on what will be done in the city. However, how to attract people into the city, and mobility, must also be considered together as a set for things to go well.