Rail travel is an incredibly popular and efficient way to travel in Japan. While I don't think it would take anyone that long to warm up to rail travel in Japan, I lived there long enough to really, really appreciate the train network that includes hyperfast Shinkansen (bullet train) and putzing little two-car trains that visit small towns. Over in the city of Toyama, a Light Railway Transit, or LRT (similar to streetcars or trams, rail systems that share space with cars on a road) has been operating for about a year and a half now and the Portram has been a success.

According to Japan for Sustainability's December newsletter, Portram "is an innovative system using a good design that people feel comfortable using," and was built to help the elderly and to be kinder to the environment. Town residents are appreciative of the service: the average daily ridership during the first year of Portram was 4,900, well above the initial target of 3,400 riders a day. While there are plenty of trains in Japan, JFS says that Toyama is the only city in the country operating an LRT service. There are trams in Sapporo and I won't be at all surprised when more such services are announced in the near future.

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[Source: Junko Edahiro / Japan for Sustainability]

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