Rail-integrated communities in Tokyo

Author/s: John Calimente

Creation date: 2009

Contact info: jcalimente@gmail.com

Senior supervisor: Peter V. Hall

Keywords:  Local transit – Japan – Tokyo, Urban transportation – Planning, Land use – Planning, Tokyo - Urban Rail, Tokyo - Transit-Oriented Development, Tokyo - Private Railways, Tokyo urban rail, Transit-oriented development, TOD, Private railways, Tokyu, Rail integrated communities, RIC

Geographic focus: Tokyo, Japan

Research question/s: How were successful rail integrated communities created as a product of the Japanese private railway model within the socioeconomic context of Tokyo?


Tokyo’s rail-integrated communities (RICs) are high-density, safe, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly developments around railway stations. They are community hubs, served by frequent, all-day, rail rapid transit, accessed primarily by foot, bicycle, or public transit. Though they receive little financial support from the government, Japanese private railways have been instrumental in creating rail-integrated communities. They have become profitable by diversifying into real estate, retail, and other businesses. Transit agencies may be able to learn how to achieve more financial independence through diversification through studying the example of Japan’s private railways. Tokyo’s RICs are also good examples of the complete communities that can result from good coordination between transportation and land development.  


Tokyo’s rail integrated communities are the result of innovation practised by Japanese private railways, as well as national government policies that have facilitated their success. The national government has made driving expensive, while at the same time subsidizing commuter passes and regulating fare increases. As a result, the mode shares for walking, cycling, and transit are high and the Tokyo region enjoys a very sustainable pattern of regional development compared to other cities.

The Japanese government’s early nationalization of the country’s main trunk lines forced private railways to find ways to increase their ridership and create alternate sources of revenue. Hankyu Electric Railway in Osaka had great success through real estate development along rail lines that terminated in entertainment and recreation complexes. Tokyu Corporation took this a step further by also recruiting schools and universities to locate next to its rail lines. By adopting an innovative diversification strategy, Japanese private railways were better able to adapt to the impact of car culture when it eventually arrived.

External publications: "Rail integrated communities in Tokyo" in The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Spring 2012, pp. 19–32.