What brought this to my attention was a recent set of advertisements. In September the Yamanote Line--the circular line that connects the main stations in Tokyo--celebrated 100 years of operations (and made a deal to allow one train to be completely wrapped in Meiji chocolate ads between 9/7 and 12/4/2009, apparently because the original trains were brown). I'm pretty sure it wasn't exactly as it is now but that's still light years ahead of most other places. When I think of trains I usually imagine Victorian people and steam engines. Now of course I think of Japanese commuter trains, but being from Michigan there's no public transportation in most places and shoddy transportation at best in a few places. And they're usually buses in college towns anyway.
(not my video)
In any case, these people have been using trains since their parents' or grandparents' times while Michiganders were getting into using cars...
Trains aren't always the fastest way to travel if there isn't a good route, but they usually beat the hell out of local traffic. I remember once in Shiga prefecture it took two hours to go to a place that took less than 30 minutes by train. But people still seem to love their cars here. Lots of my students have boasted about driving to work. From my view, the horrible Tokyo traffic combined with the exorbitant cost of getting a license (and then getting/maintaining a car) plus parking, toll roads, etc. make driving here completely not worth the effort. But I digress.
So, trains. They're quite handy and reliable and it's too bad most of Michigan [and most of the US] isn't structured in any way that could benefit from the installation of a train system like this. Any which way, I'm glad I have access to the Japanese train system now.
(photos courtesy of wikipedia since I lack my own at the moment...)