Tokyo Trains Keep Commuters on Their Toes

Associated Press

A Tokyo train line introduced seatless cars today to reduce overcrowding during rush hours and got a mixed response from commuters, some of whom complained of being treated like packages.

The new cars on the crowded Yamanote loop line have foldable seats that can be lowered or folded back into the wall automatically by pushing a button, a railroad official said.

The seats will remain folded during morning rush hour to increase the capacity of the cars and allow easier movement of passengers on and off trains, he said.

Regular train cars on the line have a rated capacity of 144, while the new cars can officially carry 162 people. The cars actually carry many more passengers during rush hour, when they frequently are packed so tightly that people can hardly move.

Only two trains with two seatless cars each were introduced today as an experiment, said an official who requested anonymity. "We will see how it goes and will decide whether we will continue the experiment," he said.

The reaction of passengers was divided. A middle-age commuter told Kyodo News Service that he liked the new car because it was less crowded and that few people are able to sit anyway in cars that have seats. Other passengers said they felt they were being treated like packages and were riding in a freight train.

The train official dismissed the criticism. "We decided to introduce the seatless cars to give better service and have never thought of treating our customers as packages," he said.

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