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Exploring the Connections Between Cities and Mobility World Mobility Vol.1 Yokohama City

The "World Mobility" series focuses on issues of "mobility" from around the world. The first article looks at a city that has its origins as a small port city: Yokohama, the location of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.'s global headquarters.

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2010/07/02

From Living to Exploring: The Connections Between a City and its Roads

A look into the daily life of a typical citizen is a great way to better under-stand the connection between a city and its transportation infrastructure. In the next few sections, we will look into the daily life of people who live in the city told from their perspective.

Navigator: Hiroki Nagayama, Nissan Motor Corporation.
Hiroki Nagayama has lived in Yokohama for 25 years. He currently lives in Konan Ward in Yokohama and drives to work, traveling from Konan Ward to Atsugi City where Nissan's world headquarters is located. He was involved in the development of the "Forest Air-con" air condition-ing system installed in the Infiniti M (known as Fuga in Japan) and currently works in the technology marketing group.

When the weather is good, he walks to Kaminagaya Station on the Blue Line. On days off, he likes to read all day at home and visit soba noodle shops. For the most part, he likes to stay indoors, but steps outside now and then. He says that Yokohama "is a really strange town."

The City Structure That Creates Traffic Jams When It Rains

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The structure of Yokohama's roads is a little peculiar. Although newer street are wide, occasionally having 3 lanes for use in each direction, the roads running through residential areas are so narrow that they resemble the lines and intersections of a Go board. This peculiar structure is one of the main causes of traffic congestion. In order to give priority to traf-fic on main streets, traffic on nearby residential side streets is limited. Yamanote, a high-class residential area where Umi-no-Mieru-Oka Park and Yokohama Foreigners' Cemetery are located, Kohoku New Town, Aobadai, and many other residential areas share this peculiar feature.

Nagayama says, "Traffic congestion in residential areas varies due to time of day and weather. Everyday when I go to work, I take the Kanjo Line No. 2 to the Hodogoya Bypass, and then change to the Tomei Ex-pressway, which takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes. On good days, I can get to work in 50 minutes. The key point of whether I can get to work early or not is whether I can get through the area around Higashi-totsuka Station quickly enough. On rainy days, I always lose a lot of time there. During the evening and morning rush hour on rainy days, people who would usually bike or walk to the station take the car instead. The weather truly does change the way people travel."

The Two Faces of Yamanote's Streets

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Yamanote is a high-class residential area located on a plateau. Famous landmarks, like Umi-no-Mieru-Oka Park and Yokohama Foreigners' Ceme-tery, are located here. Many years ago, Yamanote was a foreign settle-ment quarter and is known for its old, classical Western style buildings that attract many tourists. While the north side of Yatosaka that climbs up from the north side is relatively wide, many roads running along the south side are narrow.

Nagayama says, "To me, this area is typical of Yokohama. The main roads of the residential area, located on high ground, were built wide during the early foreign settlement period. The entire southern part of the area, however, seems to have been built after, as the area became subdivided into small sections with equally narrow roads."

Dealing With Daily Traffic Congestion in Residential Areas

The area surrounding Aobadai Station on the Denentoshi Line in Yokoha-ma's Aoba Ward has a network of roads that is typical of most areas in Yokohama. It has a residential area built on high ground and is connected by large main roads. Around Aobadai Station, the residential area is con-nected by Atsugi Road and Kanjo No. 4. Traffic congestion occurs at a point on Kanjo No. 4 where it descends from the residential area and heads south towards Atsugi Road.

Nagayama says, "Kanjo No. 4 passes in front of Aobadai Station where it intersects with the station's large rotary. There is a lot of traffic going in and out of the station creating long traffic jams. In an effort to reach Atsugi Road and avoid the congestion in front of the station, drivers often try to use the narrow side streets and inadvertently cause conges-tion there."

Mobility Makes a City Grow

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In 1998, a Tomei Express highway interchange was completed near the well-known, high-class residential area of Aobadai, which greatly improved access to and from central Tokyo. The number of passengers taking the express train on the Denentoshi Line to and from Aobadai Station and To-kyo's Shibuya Station is continually rising. Currently, approximately 110,000 passengers take the train every day.

Nagayama says, "A long time ago when I was living in Miyamaedaira, I re-member this area having nothing but rice fields. The area in front of the next station down, Tana Station, is rice fields even now. I think that the highway interchange, railways and other parts of Aobadai's improved transportation infrastructure had a big part in its growth as an area."

Why The Blue Line Takes Detours

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In 1963, a large scale city project called "The Big 6,"which included the construction of Kohoku New Town, new highways and railways, was start-ed in Yokohama. The railway that was built is known today as the Yoko-hama City Subway. The subway's Blue Line, with Azamino Station and Shounandai Station at its terminals, curves north and west away from Kannai Station at its center. The small building in the photo is the en-trance to Maioka Station on the Blue Line.

Nagayama says, "Senior citizens living in Yokohama depend on the Blue Line everyday. However, passengers from outside the city find the Blue Line's detouring into outlying residential areas where the majority of sen-iors live to be inconvenient. I suppose you can say that the Blue Line was built to focus on the 'mobility' needs of the citizens of Yokohama."

The Natural Side of a City

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As you move away from Yokohama's city center, you start to see patches of natural greenery. This photo shows farm fields in Totsuka-ku in Yoko-hama's Maioka Ward. One special feature of Yokohama is that you can ride for just 20 minutes on the Blue Line before encountering the natural beauty of Maioka Ward. The transportation of harvested crops by light trucks is a common sight in the area.

Nagayama says, "There is always a section in supermarkets and depart-ment stores selling fresh local produce. Unattended booths selling pro-duce near the farm fields are common. I myself eat a lot of vegetables that are grown locally. One of the reasons I like Yokohama is because even though it is a big urban city, it still has a lot of green, natural areas."

Driving to Prevent Traffic Congestion

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The Tomei Expressway, the Keihin No. 3 Highway, Metropolitan Express-way, and other highways are vital parts of Yokohama's transportation in-frastructure. The photograph on the right shows part of the Metropoli-tan Expressway passing underground starting from Sakuragi Ward Tunnel and ending near the entrance to Ishikawa Ward. This is the Kannai area, which was designed with aesthetic considerations in an effort to appeal to tourists.

Nagayama says, "The Keihin No. 3 is a very convenient highway. There is little congestion on it, which makes it easy to estimate when you will arrive in central Tokyo. The Keihin No. 3 was designed originally to be a railway that connected Tokyo with the Shounan area. But due to the spread of automobiles, it was made into Japan's first six-lane toll highway in 1965. If you use the "Vehicle Timetable," you will be able to intelligently select routes that avoid congestion."