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Old Posted Sep 12, 2020, 3:35 PM
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What the World Can Learn From Life Under Tokyo’s Rail Tracks

What the World Can Learn From Life Under Tokyo’s Rail Tracks


September 10, 2020

By Max Zimmerman

Read More: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/featu...-s-rail-tracks

Quote:
The spaces beneath elevated railways generally get a bad rap. At least that’s the case in the U.S. and mainland Europe, where they are often considered dark, dangerous and noisy. In Tokyo, however, the undertracks’ reputation is rather different. These spaces are more than just storage and parking. They are agglomerations of cozy restaurants and shops that are intimately tied to the identity of certain commercial districts. — Developments outside the city center have expanded the possibilities, too: Workshops, nurseries, college dormitories and medical clinics can all be found under the tracks.

- Japan’s first elevated rail was completed near Yurakucho in 1910. It was designed to house commercial facilities from the start; the first restaurant owner set up shop below the rail a decade later. As Japan’s economic growth accelerated in the 1950s and 1960s, the rail network boomed. Operators began to raise more trains to help ease congestion, integrating commercial facilities below some of their tracks. Since 1959, 112.2 kilometers (69.7 miles) of ground-level track have been elevated, according to government data. — In cities like New York and Chicago, railways often had to be built over existing roads leaving local residents complaining of noise, lack of sunlight, pollution and filth. Elevated highways in many U.S. cities face similar criticism, and European cities like Paris encountered the same problems in building elevated rails, with the added issue of preserving the historic architecture around them. While centrally planned, public projects like the Promenade Plantée and New York’s High Line aim to revive these areas, the undertracks were and still are largely considered to be dead spaces that divide neighborhoods.

- In Tokyo, elevated structures were often built over wider passages or in undeveloped areas outside the city center, leaving the space underneath available for use. Rather than creating a monolithic rail-and-road partition through the city, occupied undertrack spaces remained somewhat permeable and carried less of a stigma. — Newly raised lines in Tokyo’s suburbs, however, present similar issues to those in American cities. As of April 2020, 19.5 kilometers of overhead track was under construction with 12.8 kilometers more in the pipeline, according to government data. Many of these projects are located in residential neighborhoods, where rail operators have been less eager to develop the real estate. — In these areas, Tokyo’s conventional model of retailers and restaurants would be unprofitable. Instead, novel uses that draw on local characteristics and resources have sprung up. When a rail line near Kamata, a neighborhood not far from the city’s Haneda airport was elevated in 2012, the area beneath the track was initially slated to become parking.

- A group of local designers, architects, artists and businessmen proposed leveraging the area’s base of small factories and craftsmen. The result was Koca, a coworking space aimed at connecting creatives with each other and local workshops that can serve their needs. — It’s just one example of the practice. Under a stretch of the Chuo Line, which reaches deep into western Tokyo, East Japan Railway Co. has developed not just its own shopping complex but also student dormitories serving nearby universities as well as a nursery, an event space, shared offices, restaurants and public seating. In Nerima Ward, a highly residential area of western Tokyo, Seibu Railway Co. opened a “medical mall” with three specialized clinics and a pharmacy, reducing residents’ need to travel to hospitals for minor issues. — One of the lessons is that when you have these kind of difficult spaces, these gaps or cracks in the city where somehow public space doesn’t work, let many entrepreneurs in, giving them very low rental prices and giving them freedom.

.....



A bullet train pulls into Yurakucho station.






Yurakucho has many traditional izakaya eateries packed together under the tracks.






This vending machine outlet built under the tracks near Akihabara Station maximizes Tokyo's urban space.






Student dormitories are tucked under the track between Higashi-Koganei and Musashi-Koganei stations.






The Koca coworking space.

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  #2  
Old Posted Sep 12, 2020, 5:02 PM
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Old Posted Sep 12, 2020, 5:10 PM
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With the exception of the loop itself and the lake street el (which run directly over public streets), most of chicago's elevated trackage runs down alleys (where ROWs were easier to acquire by the private companies that built them back in the olden days), so the space underneath is most often utilized for parking.

There's also a lot of el and commuter track that's elevated on earthen embankments, so that space is too impractical/expensive to utilize. Perhaps if chicago was under a severe land crunch we'd see some of that space carved out, but chicago is NOT tokyo (radical understatement).

That said, there are some exceptions (particularly around stations) where you can find the space under the tracks being used by commercial establishments. One of my favorites is the outdoor dining patio of a taco restaurant in our old neighborhood in Edgewater. Our kids (and me too) always got a kick out of eating our tacos while red line el trains rumbled by directly overhead.



Source: https://www.vanilla-bean.com/localit...e12adb7222cc6#
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Old Posted Sep 13, 2020, 6:28 AM
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This was one of my favorite things about Tokyo. So efficient, so cool and adds a layer of uniqueness
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Old Posted Sep 13, 2020, 6:34 PM
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Old Posted Sep 14, 2020, 12:15 AM
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I’ve sometimes wondered whether something like this was possible in LA despite its seismic history. Like maybe carve out spaces underneath its freeway overpasses against the embankment walls while building some sort of support structure for the freeway above??

Though technically something like this already exists on portions of the 10 through Downtown, particularly between Sante Fe and San Pedro Ave.

These, along with the “lids/caps” (110 Downtown, 101 Downtown & Hollywood, 210 Pasadena, 134 Glendale, etc) would surely do wonders for the pedestrian walkability experience in those areas that have had freeways carved through them.
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Old Posted Sep 14, 2020, 12:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LosAngelesSportsFan View Post
This was one of my favorite things about Tokyo. So efficient, so cool and adds a layer of uniqueness
Agreed. First thing I noticed when we rolled into Tokyo was their insane efficient use of space.
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Old Posted Sep 14, 2020, 12:59 AM
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Other cities may do it, but Tokyo does it the best. By far.
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Old Posted Sep 14, 2020, 3:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
With the exception of the loop itself and the lake street el (which run directly over public streets), most of chicago's elevated trackage runs down alleys (where ROWs were easier to acquire by the private companies that built them back in the olden days), so the space underneath is most often utilized for parking.

There's also a lot of el and commuter track that's elevated on earthen embankments, so that space is too impractical/expensive to utilize. Perhaps if chicago was under a severe land crunch we'd see some of that space carved out, but chicago is NOT tokyo (radical understatement).

That said, there are some exceptions (particularly around stations) where you can find the space under the tracks being used by commercial establishments. One of my favorites is the outdoor dining patio of a taco restaurant in our old neighborhood in Edgewater. Our kids (and me too) always got a kick out of eating our tacos while red line el trains rumbled by directly overhead.



Source: https://www.vanilla-bean.com/localit...e12adb7222cc6#
Isn't there a Farmer's Market under the Brown Line?
I think here:
https://www.google.com/maps/@41.9438...7i16384!8i8192


There's a Park (really Basketball Courst) under the Orange Line at State/18th:
https://www.google.com/maps/@41.8579...7i16384!8i8192

And some building at IIT:
https://www.google.com/maps/@41.8346...7i16384!8i8192

And some of the alleys have some nice artwork (and are really fun to walk down, in general)
https://www.google.com/maps/@41.8696...7i16384!8i8192

But mostly it's parking/uninteresting back alleys, like this:
https://www.google.com/maps/@41.8554...7i16384!8i8192

or this:
https://www.google.com/maps/@41.8981...7i16384!8i8192

or this:
https://www.google.com/maps/@41.8544...7i16384!8i8192

or, in some more run down areas, it's pretty desolate:
https://www.google.com/maps/@41.7984...7i16384!8i8192
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Old Posted Sep 14, 2020, 2:18 PM
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The standard for most elevated structures in the US is that all parts of the structure, including the underside, need to be accessible for regular inspections and maintenance. If you enclose part of that underside like a building, it cuts off access for inspections and makes maintenance very difficult.

Most of the structures, in Tokyo and Europe, that have these undertrack spaces are brick arch viaducts - simple compression structures that don't really degrade over time, apart from drainage issues and tuckpointing. So they don't need the same kinds of inspections that a steel or concrete freeway viaduct does. Very few of these brick viaducts in the US - a few in East Coast cities and (IIRC) Savannah, GA but they're not really in pedestrian friendly locations where space is at a premium.

The "Koca" coworking space in the article is closer to most American examples. If you want to build under a freeway viaduct, you need to allow plenty of clearance between the roof of the structure and the bottom of the bridge deck. It's probably also wise to use some kind of mobile/modular construction so the structure can be moved in the future if needed without needing to demolish.
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Old Posted Sep 14, 2020, 2:34 PM
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That being said, there are still a few good examples of creative reuse under road and rail bridges in the US. French Market below Ogilvie Station in Chicago, Bridgemarket under the Queensboro Bridge in NYC, etc.

I believe the old "Chinese wall" railroad viaduct in Philly had businesses beneath it, before it was torn down for the Center City Connection in the 1970s.

The "Brooklyn Banks" skatepark under the Brooklyn Bridge is iconic, but the city has shut it down the last few years for bridge work...
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Last edited by ardecila; Sep 14, 2020 at 2:52 PM.
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Old Posted Sep 14, 2020, 7:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
The standard for most elevated structures in the US is that all parts of the structure, including the underside, need to be accessible for regular inspections and maintenance. If you enclose part of that underside like a building, it cuts off access for inspections and makes maintenance very difficult.
that makes sense. so i guess that the exceptions around town like the that taco restaurant in edgewater i posted earlier, or this old forlorn antique shop under the brown line tracks over by me in lincoln square, must be grandfathered in?

https://www.google.com/maps/@41.9662...7i16384!8i8192
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Last edited by Steely Dan; Sep 14, 2020 at 7:33 PM.
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Old Posted Sep 14, 2020, 11:27 PM
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There are exceptions to every rule. I think in CTA's case they had the space leftover from a different era, and they couldn't justify tearing it down and leaving potential rental income on the table. Or an alderman twisted their arm to keep renting these spaces to certain businesses.

This kind of thing was more common in the 1910s and 20s, because all the viaducts were brand new and they weren't thinking about what happens 100 years later when the infrastructure is in a constant state of crumbling and decrepitude.

Another potential factor here is bureaucracy - the Feds pay for most elevated road and rail infrastructure, and I'm guessing they don't take too kindly to local agencies renting out space in the right of way to private businesses. I know they have a similar law prohibiting commercial business from opening at Interstate rest stops, partly for aesthetic reasons and partly to "protect the private sector" from competition.
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Last edited by ardecila; Sep 14, 2020 at 11:44 PM.
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Old Posted Sep 16, 2020, 11:59 AM
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The Victorians built a vast network of brick viaducts across the UK, in London alone there are thousands of arches. For many years these arches were home to car mechanics, taxi firms, scrap metal merchants, wholesalers, etc..., so-called less desirable 'under the arches' businesses.

In the past three decades, the composition of tenants completely changed as firms sought out cheaper premises and more unique locales. They in turn became highly desirable locations. Some have been smartened up, others retaining their gritty appeal.

You will still find car mechanics under the arches in less desirable parts of London, but areas that are gentrifying are now dominated by thousands of restaurants, bars, offices, bakeries, hairdressers, cinemas, gyms, swimming pools, climbing centres, theatres, shops, markets, art galleries, breweries, distilleries, wineries, etc... pretty much every business or industry imaginable.

I’ve been meaning to do a photo thread dedicated to London’s railway arches, maybe this thread gives me the jolt to go out and do it!
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Old Posted Sep 30, 2020, 2:45 AM
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for ny the first things that come to mind are pershing square restaurant in front of grand central.




a trader joes under the 59st bridge.




and the old chinatown grocery store under the manhattan bridge.




unfortunately, the city and feds have taken a dim view of anything going under infrastructure due to, as bush used to say, the 'tehr.
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