Western Greater Tokyo is now a massive collection of bedroom communities that sprang up as part of the development of Tokyo, Japan's capital. Western Greater Tokyo is divided into four districts: the three Tama districts within Metropolitan Tokyo—Kita (North) Tama, Minami (South) Tama and Nishi (West) Tama, and south-west Saitama Prefecture.
Kita Tama and south-west Saitama Prefecture are located on the Musashino Plateau, a fairly flat swathe of land of comparatively low elevation (20–180 m). The plateau is bounded on the south by the Tama River and on the north by the Iruma and Arakawa rivers. It is covered by thick layers of Kanto loam that were originally deposited as volcanic ash. For centuries, the plateau was regarded with disfavour because it had insufficient water, but it was developed from the mid-Edo period (ca. 1750) when large areas were opened up as arable lands. Prior to this, the only settlements were small villages located at the base of natural terraces.
Minami Tama has two predominating topographical features: the Tama Hills stretching from Hachioji in the south-west part of MetropolitanTokyo to Kawasaki and northern Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture; and the Hachioji Basin. The northern Tama Hills are south of the Tama River and close to the Musashino Plateau, which is on the northern side of the river. One of the most important cities in the district is Hachioji, which prospered from the late 1800s as a centre selling raw silk and producing woven silk. Even today, Hachioji and two of its neighbouring cities, Hino and Akishima, form an inland industrial zone. Hachioji and its surroundings are an important commercial centre in western Tokyo.
Today, the Kita and Minami Tama districts are densely populated bedroom communities for Tokyo commuters as a result of massive housing developments after WWII. Before the war, the scattered farming communities in a pleasant rural setting made the Musashino Plateau a favourite place for outings by Tokyo dwellers. The only developed area had been close to the low-lying Yamanote Plateau near the centre of Tokyo. But after the war, Kita and Minami Tama became two of the first areas around Tokyo to be developed because the land had good drainage due to its topography, was connected with and close to the densely populated Yamanote Plateau, and had convenient transport links to the city centre via a number of railway lines radiating from stations on the Yamanote Line. The most important line was the east–west Chuo Line; the other lines now belong to the private Seibu, Keio and Odakyu railway companies.
Land in Kunitachi, Seijo-gakuen and some other areas had been sold and developed as university towns before the war. These areas earned a reputation as good places to live and after the war, they became some of Tokyo's best residential districts.
After the mid-1950s, many areas were being developed by private companies building and selling homes in subdivisions, and by the Japan Housing Corporation (now called the Urban Development Corporation), a public entity promoting construction of large apartment complexes.
The tendency was for housing to be developed first along the railway lines radiating from the city centre—now JR East's Chuo Line, Keio's Keio and Inogashira lines, Odakyu's Odawara Line, and Seibu's Shinjuku and Ikebukuro lines. The second wave of development occurred gradually in other areas, such as along branch lines and between the main lines. One good example is Tama New Town, which was started in 1966 in the Tama Hills, and was planned to house about 300,000 people.
Nishi Tama in the westernmost part of Metropolitan Tokyo is part of the Kanto Mountains and is noted for its steep slopes and valleys that attract tourists today. The population lives mainly in rural villages, and the economy used to centre on industries such as raising silkworms, weaving, forestry, and limestone mining. Limestone mining and production of lime became important industries in the late 1800s after railways were constructed to facilitate bulk freight to the Keihin (Tokyo–Yokohama) industrial district.
The rapid postwar expansion of the Japanese economy attracted many people to settle in Greater Tokyo, especially on the western side. As a result, the Chuo Line was the first line to experience the great increase in commuters. Commuter services before the war had been improved when the track between Nakano and Tokyo stations was quadrupled and served by electric express trains. After the war, Japanese National Railways (JNR) set out to improve conditions for rush-hour commuters. It tackled this objective with great energy by introduction of 10-car train sets (1,400 passengers) for rapid services in 1956; introduction of 20-m long Series 101 cars each with four sliding double doors per side; introduction of joint through services on Teito Rapid Transit Authority's (TRTA) Tozai subway line in April 1966—the first through service on JNR and subway tracks; and elevation and quadrupling of tracks between Nakano and Ogikubo in April 1966, and between Ogikubo and Mitaka in April 1969.
Housing developments sprang up along all lines, although the outbreak periods varied and the resulting population densities were different. Each company made considerable efforts to improve its tracks in response.
The improvements made by Keio Electric Railway are a good example. Before the war, the Keio Line used mainly two-car train sets with small cars. But as ridership increased after the war, Keio introduced longer trains with more spacious rolling stock and moved its track from the Koshu Kaido to a dedicated right of way. Then, in the early 1960s, the company introduced 18-m Series 5000 cars on the Keio Line along with Series 3000 stainless-steel cars on the Inogashira Line. In 1975, the company began running 8-car train sets on the Keio Line with the result that the 1975 rush-hour capacity was about 356% greater than in 1955.
These improvements aimed to meet demand from the growing suburban population. However, although the boosted ridership increased railway income, costs also surged, especially for companies building new tracks. Their solution was to adopt a comprehensive approach by making money through housing development, etc., and then spending it on new tracks.
Keio Electric Railway is a good case. It promoted a massive (940,000 m²) trackside housing development in a subdivision of Hachioji to gain extra revenue and then opened the Takao Line (Kitano to Takaosan-guchi) in October 1967 to serve the new resident commuters. Part of the line was build on the road bed of the abandoned Keio's Goryo Line.
However, large housing developments need huge initial capital investment to buy the land and build homes, so most major developments have been supported by public bodies. For example, Tama New Town in the Tama Hills was developed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo Housing Service Public Corporation, and Japan Housing Corporation. To promote rail links between Tokyo and Tama New Town, the Japan Railway Construction Public Corporation (JRCC) applied a new framework of subsidies to compensate the private Keio and Odakyu railways for interest incurred on railway-construction loans. In addition, the developers shared some of the railway construction costs. Supported by this assistance, Keio extended its Tamagawara Line (Chofu–Keio-tamagawa) to Tama Center in the middle of Tama New Town. (When the new extension opened in October 1974, it was called the Sagamihara Line.) For its part, Odakyu began operating a new line from Shin Yurigaoka to Nagayama in June 1974 and extended services to Tama Center in
April 1975. The two lines have since been extended west and south—Keio's Sagamihara Line has terminated at Hashimoto since March 1990, and Odakyu opened the Tama Center–Karakida extension in March 1990.
Track quadrupling is an effective but expensive way to boost capacity in metropolitan centres like Tokyo. To reduce the financial burden, a special reserve system was established by the government in April 1985, allowing operators to levy a temporary surcharge on fares to cover future construction costs with revenues from the surcharge held in a tax-free reserve. Seibu is currently quadrupling track from Sakuradai to Shakuji-koen on its Ikebukuro Line using this system, while Odakyu is doing the same from Higashi Kitazawa to Izumi-tamagawa on its Odawara Line.
Over the last few years, carriers have improved passenger services in various other ways, such as introducing air-conditioned cars (all rolling stock is now air conditioned), installing elevators, escalators and ramps in stations to promote barrier-free travel, and providing space in carriages for wheelchairs. Since October 2000, users transferring between 20 private railways, including Keio, Odakyu, Seibu and Tobu, now enjoy the convenience of the stored fare (SF) card system, Passnet.
JR East's Chuo Line from Tokyo to Takao
The Chuo Line was one of the first lines currently operated by JR East to be the focus of efforts to raise capacity for commuters. The efforts began before WWII, and were continued by JNR in the postwar period when 10-car train sets and Series 101 rolling stock were introduced before any other part of the JNR network received them. Congestion on the Chuo Line is about the worst on the JR East network. During the morning rush hour, trains run at a 2-minute headway but the congestion between Nakano and Shinjuku rate during the most crowded 1-hour period was still 221% in FY1999.
The track has been quadrupled as far as Mitaka, permitting rapid services on one pair of tracks and local services on the other pair between Mitaka and Ochanomizu. During daytime operations, through connections to Tokyo Station are provided solely by rapid and special rapid trains, although local trains offer through connections in the early morning and midnight. Most rapid services run from Tokyo Station to Takao Station, or terminate at stations closer to Tokyo, such as Musashi-koganei, Tachikawa or Toyoda. Between Tokyo and Nakano, rapid services stop only at major stations. Special rapid service trains stop at even fewer stations with about four trains per hour during the day (one train per hour stops at stations on the Ome Line, after switching to the line at Tachikawa). The fastest journey from Tokyo Station to Takao Station is 57 minutes by the special rapid service. As a rule, special rapid services connect with an earlier rapid service train at Mitaka and Kokubunji. During the morning rush hour, JR East operates five Tokyo-bound special rapid commuter trains that stop at even fewer stations than the special rapid service trains. Two of these trains use the Ome Line before joining the Chuo Line. On the other hand, during the evening rush hour, the rapid commuter trains stop at more stations than special rapid trains.
During the day, local trains stop at all stations between Mitaka and Ochanomizu (or the shorter distance between Nakano and Ochanomizu for about half of local trains), then leave the Chuo Line at Ochanomizu and continue onto the Sobu Line for destinations in Chiba. The track section between Nakano and Mitaka is also used by TRTA's Tozai Line subway trains. Further west, during regular daytime hours, two trains (one offering special rapid services) switch from the Chuo Line to the Ome Line each hour; from Takao, special rapid trains offer five-and-a-half return runs to and from Otsuki outside the Greater Tokyo area. The extended services on both lines were introduced to serve the growing population in those areas.
Although the Chuo Line is one of the most congested lines in Greater Tokyo, its track has been quadrupled only between the city centre and Mitaka. One pair of tracks for rapid trains is also used by trains providing through services from the Ome Line and by limited express trains from Shinjuku bound for Kofu, Matsumoto and other western destinations. Consequently, the tracks cannot offer more capacity for commuters during the day. Level crossings west of Mitaka are another problem. Construction is underway along the Mitaka–Tachikawa section of elevated track, and track quadrupling is in planning.
Keio Electric Railway lines
Keio Electric Railway operates a total of 84.7 km of railway lines: the Keio Line (37.9 km from Shinjuku to Keio Hachioji); the Takao Line (8.6 km from Kitano on the Keio Line to Takaosan-guchi); the Sagamihara Line (22.6 km from Chofu to Hashimoto); the Keibajo Line (0.9 km from Higashi Fuchu to Fuchu-keiba-seimonmae); the Dobutsuen Line (2.0 km from Takahata-fudo to Tama Dobutsukoen); and the Inogashira Line (12.7 km from Shibuya to Kichijoji).
Rail ridership in FY2000 was 584 million. Of this total, 350 million (59.9%) were commuter-pass (season-ticket) holders. Passenger revenues in FY2000 were ¥72.5 billion. The Keio Group also has non-railway businesses—some of the Group's 36 companies offer bus services (mostly providing links to Keio stations) and let real estate in station buildings and other developments.
Keio Electric Railway presently offers special express services at 20-minute intervals between Shinjuku and Keio Hachioji (34 minutes). JR East's Chuo Line also connects these two destinations and is therefore a competitor with a travel time of 36 minutes on special rapid trains. Some Keio trains departing Shinjuku offer direct connections to stations on the Takao and Sagamihara lines, providing semi-special express, express and rapid services.
Both Keio and Odakyu offer links from Tokyo to Tama New Town, but Keio's Sagamihara Line is more important because it offers many direct connections from Tama New Town to the city centre, while most trains on Odakyu's Tama Line—except for a few during rush hour—only offered a shuttle service to Shin Yurigaoka until March 2002.
Keio's Inogashira Line has an unique track gauge so it is operated independently of the other lines.
From 1987 to 1997, Keio used the special reserve system to introduce 10-car train sets for all morning rush-hour trains on the Keio Line and to build Series-1000 rolling stock (20-m carriages) for the Inogashira Line. The results are noticeable now that the rolling stock is in use; on the Keio Line between Shimo Takaido and Meidaimae, capacity during the most congested time period increased from 31,660 in FY1985 to 42,000 in FY1999 and congestion rates dropped from 193% to 168%. On the Inogashira Line between Shibuya and Shinsen, capacity during the most congested time period increased from 17,280 in FY1985 to 19,980 in FY1999. To improve services further, Keio Line trains running late at night on weekdays have included a female-only car since March 2001.
Odakyu Electric Railway lines
Odakyu Electric Railway operates a total of 120.5 km of lines: the Odawara Line (82.5 km from Shinjuku to Odawara); the Enoshima Line (27.4 km from Sagami-ono to Katase-enoshima); and the Tama Line (10.6 km from Shin Yurigaoka to Karakida). Odakyu also operates department stores, supermarkets and other retail outlets, most located near stations, as well as hotels, real estate businesses and other enterprises. It is also actively involved in developing the tourism of Hakone.
Odakyu was split off from Tokyo Electric Express Railway after WWII and established as an independent company. Odakyu's tourism strategy in Hakone area and its special express services between Shinjuku and Hakone-yumoto will be described in the next issue.
Odakyu commuters endure some of the worst crowding in Greater Tokyo. For example, the congestion was 190% between Setagaya-daita and Shimo Kitazawa during the most crowded time period in FY1999.
To reduce congestion on track sections near Shinjuku, Odakyu and TRTA began offering through connections on each other's lines from Yoyogi-uehara (Odawara Line/Chiyoda subway line) in March 1978. As an additional measure, Odakyu is using the special reserve system to quadruple the section between Higashi Kitazawa and Izumi-tamagawa (10.4-km). The 2.4-km section between Kitami and Izumi-tamagawa was quadrupled and entered service in June 1997. When the work is completed between Kitami and Higashi Kitazawa, Odakyu anticipates that congestion will drop to between 160% and 169% with the journey by express between Shinjuku and Mukogaokayuen dropping from the current 29 minutes to 21 minutes.
Seibu Railway lines
Seibu Railway operates a total of 176.6 km of railway on 12 passenger lines: the Ikebukuro Line (57.8 km from Ikebukuro to Agano); the Seibu Chichibu Line (19.0 km from Agano to Seibu Chichibu); the Seibu Yurakucho Line (2.6 km from Nerima to Kotake-mukaihara); the Toshima Line (1.0 km from Nerima to Toshimaen); the Sayama Line (4.2 km from Nishi Tokorozawa to Seibu Kyujomae); the Yamaguchi Line (2.8 km from Seibu Yuenchi to Seibu Kyujomae); the Shinjuku Line (47.5 km from Seibu Shinjuku to Hon Kawagoe); the Seibuen Line (2.4 km from Higashi Murayama to Seibuen); the Kokubunji Line (7.8 km from Kokubunji to Higashi Murayama); the Haijima Line (14.3 km from Kodaira to Haijima); the Tamako Line (9.2 km from Kokubunji to Seibu Yuenchi); and the Seibu Tamagawa Line (8.0 km from Musashi-sakai to Koremasa). Seibu also owns a 3.2-km freight line from Minami Otsuka to Ahina although it is not presently in operation. Rail ridership in FY2000 was 609.84 million of whom 63% were commuter-pass holders.
Seibu Railway also owns the Seibu Lions professional baseball team and operates the Seibu-En Amusement Park. It has branched out into hotel management and development of real estate and other enterprises located both near to and far from its tracks. In FY2000, 49.8% of Seibu's sales came from railway operations, a low ratio compared to other major private railways in Japan.
Seibu's two main lines, the Shinjuku and Ikebukuro lines, intersect at Tokorozawa but the operation systems are different.
The Shinjuku Line links Shinjuku with Kawagoe (an important city in south-west Saitama Prefecture) and is used mainly by commuting workers and students. During the morning rush hour, Seibu runs 26 trains each hour classified as commuter express, rapid service, local-express, and local trains.
The Ikebukuro Line from Ikebukuro terminates at Agano where it connects with the Seibu Chichibu Line. It serves commuting workers and students living between Hanno and Tokyo and also takes tourists to the scenic Chichibu region. A track section was constructed in April 1989 to link Seibu's Chichibu Line to the line operated by Chichibu Railway, making it possible to offer through services. Seibu offers 25 and one half return runs on weekdays (23 and one half runs on holidays) using the Chichibu and Musashi limited-express trains (with surcharge levy), cutting the journey time from Ikebukuro to Seibu Chichibu to 78 minutes. Other rapid express trains make a few station stops east of Hanno.
Closer to Ikebukuro, the line is used mainly by commuting workers and students. In 1999, the section between Shiina-machi and Ikebukuro had a congestion rate of 175% during rush hours. During this time period, Seibu runs 36 trains per hour, offering a total of seven stop patterns ranging from commuter rapid (very few stops) to local trains. Some trains offer through connections to the city centre on TRTA's Yurakucho subway line.
In north-west Tokyo, commuters and tourists use Seibu's Toshima, Sayama and Seibuen branch lines terminating at popular attractions. For example, the Seibu Dome home turf of the Seibu Lions baseball team is close to Seibu Kyujomae Station on the Sayama Line and extra services are run to carry supporters to and from games.
Seibu has also increased capacity by arranging through services with TRTA on each other's tracks (via TRTA's Yurakucho subway line). Through services were started between Nerima and Kotake-mukaihara in December 1994—a shorter through service, linking Shin Sakuradai and Kotake-mukaihara had already started in October 1983—and Nerima Station was modified in March 2000 to further facilitate services.
Capacity will also be improved on the Sakuradai–Shakujii-koen section when grade separation and quadrupling are completed.
Tobu Railway's Tojo and Ogose lines
Tobu Railway operates the Tojo Line (75.0 km from Ikebukuro to Yorii in Saitama Prefecture), and the Ogose Line (10.9 km, branching from the Tojo Line at Sakado and terminating at Ogose). Apartment complexes and houses sprang up alongside these lines after the Japanese economy began expanding rapidly and this boosted demand for more transport capacity. Tobu began introducing 10-car train sets in 1976, finished quadrupling the Tobu Line section between Wako-shi and Shiki in August 1987, and began through services with TRTA via the Yurakucho subway line. These efforts have reduced congestion to less than that of other major private railways in Greater Tokyo. During the morning rush hour, Tobu runs 27 Ikebukuro-bound trains per hour at a headway of 2 minutes and 10 seconds. In FY1999, Ikebukuro-bound trains carried an average of 55,381 passengers per hour between Kita Ikebukuro and Ikebukuro at a congestion rate of 149% during the busiest time of the day.
During normal daytime operations, Tobu's express trains stop only at major stations between Ikebukuro and Kawagoe-shi and then stop at all stations further down the line. Semi-express trains make no stops from Ikebukuro until Narimasu and then stop at all stations down the line. Other trains run on various shorter sections, stopping at all stations.
Tobu is taking advantage of the special reserve system to fund construction projects that will boost capacity.
The company operates a shuttle service between Sakado and Ogose on its Ogose Line with stops at all stations. The headway is 10 minutes during rush hours and 15 minutes at other times of day.
JR East's Ome, Itsukaichi and Nambu lines
As described earlier, the tracks for today's Ome, Itsukaichi and Nambu lines were first laid for transporting limestone and construction stone. However, as factories and housing sprang up, the lines catered increasingly to commuters. A number of munitions factories were built near the lines before WWII, but from around 1955, more land was developed for housing.
The Ome Line runs 37.2 km from Tachikawa to Oku Tama. Bedroom communities predominate along the Tachikawa–Ome stretch but mountains close in between Ome and Oku Tama to the west and many passengers are tourists. Ridership is quite low, so most non-rush-hour daytime trains during the week terminate at Ome. An average of five trains per hour run west to Ome with just two per hour continuing beyond Ome.
Through services from the Chuo Line to the Ome Line began in 1959 and have increased in frequency over the years. At present, JR East offers two through services per hour in the daytime, including the morning rush hour. One is called the ‘Ome special rapid.’ On holidays, ‘holiday rapid trains’ offer three daily through rapid return services between Shinjuku and stations giving access to popular spots like Mt Mitake and Lake Oku Tama.
The Itsukaichi Line (11.1 km) is also becoming an important commuter line. Through connections to the Chuo Line are offered by two Tokyo-bound morning trains and one outbound evening train. During the rush hour, many other Itsukaichi-Line trains provide through services to the Ome Line as far as Tachikawa. On holidays, holiday rapid trains from Shinjuku bring tourists to the Akigawa region, following the pattern of through services onto the Ome Line.
Although most lines in Greater Tokyo's rail network radiate from the city centre, the Nambu Line is an exception. Instead, it runs south-west in the west part of the region, crossing many radial lines. Kawasaki, the south-eastern terminus of the Nambu Line, serves JR's Tokaido Line. Passengers travelling north-west from Kawasaki on the Nambu Line can transfer (in order) to the Tokyu's Toyoko Line at Musashi-kosugi, the Tokyu's Den'en Toshi Line at Musashi-mizonokuchi, the Odakyu's Odawara Line at Noborito, JR East's Musashino Line at Fuchuhonmachi, Keio's Keio Line at Bubaigawara, and three lines (Chuo, Ome and Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail) at Tachikawa, the north-west terminus. Ridership patterns for the Nambu Line show that these stations are used by the vast majority of passengers and that many do indeed transfer to another line.
Six-car train sets travel the 35.5 km between Kawasaki and Tachikawa in 53 minutes stopping at every station. Other trains serve only the Kawasaki–Noborito section or the Kawasaki–Inagi-naganuma section. Housing is becoming denser along the line, resulting in an increase in passengers, but infrastructure is already at its limit and JR East finds it practically impossible to run longer trains or increase frequencies. Future challenges include eliminating level crossings and increasing capacity.
JR East's Yokohama Line
The Yokohama Line runs 42.6 km from Higashi Kanagawa to Hachioji. It opened in 1909 but efforts to boost capacity to cope with the growing population along the line were made only relatively recently. The entire line was single track until the 1960s and during regular daytime hours most services used two-car train sets reminiscent of prewar days, running at intervals of 25 minutes. By 1968, JNR finished double-tracking between Higashi Kanagawa and Kozukue in Yokohama but double track only reached Hachioji in March 1988. Many trains now run the entire length of the line, although some run only between Higashi Kanagawa and Hashimoto, or between Higashi Kanagawa and Machida. The Yokohama Line crosses Odakyu's Odawara Line at Machida and more passengers use Machida Station than any other station on the Yokohama Line. Many Yokohama Line trains offer through connections from Higashi Kanagawa onto JR East's Keihin Tohoku Line, running as far as Sakuragicho, Isogo or Ofuna.
Machida is an important city in the Sagamihara region, and began developing as a bedroom community in the 1960s. It is now an important commercial centre with many large department stores and other retailers near the station. Until April 1980, the Yokohama-Line station was called Hara Machida and was about 700 m from Odakyu's Machida Station. A redevelopment project launched in 1978 in the Hara Machida district integrated the two stations with a station building complex between them.
Today, Yokohama-Line trains run at intervals of 3 or 4 minutes during the morning rush hour. During the rest of the day, there are 8 trains per hour in each direction (one offering a rapid service). In FY1999, trains carried an average of 38,350 passengers per hour between Kozukue and Shin Yokohama at a congestion rate of 201% during the busiest times of day.
JR East's Hachiko Line
The Hachiko Line runs close to the eastern base of the Kanto Mountains, and stretches 92.0 km from Hachioji to Kuragano. The line grew in stages; the northernmost section (provisionally called the Hachiko-kita Line) opened in July 1931 to connect Kuragano to Kodama. The southernmost section (provisionally called the Hachiko-minami Line) opened in December 1931 to connect Hachioji to Higashi Hanno. The entire Hachioji–Kuragano stretch began full operations in October 1934.
Until recently, the line presented a rural appearance with two- or three-car diesel train sets running during regular daytime hours. The population along the line began increasing in the 1980s but JNR showed little interest in investing large sums of money to raise service frequency. The schedule was improved to provide a headway of 30 minutes during regular daytime hours only in March 1985. Part of the line was finally electrified in March 1996. Today, rush-hour trains run at intervals of close to 20 minutes between Hachioji and Komagawa with a headway of 30 minutes at other times.
Many of the electric trains offer through services to the Kawagoe Line at Komagawa. Through services are provided elsewhere too—during the morning rush hour, two trains departing Komagawa switch to the Ome Line at Haijima and then run on the Chuo Line to Tokyo Station.
The Komagawa–Kuragano section has still not been electrified and during normal daytime hours diesel railcars run at intervals of about 90 minutes, reminding users of transportation conditions in rural Japan. These trains do not terminate in Kuragano but one station beyond at Takasaki.
Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail
The rail network in west Tokyo has most lines oriented more or less east–west with very few north–south routes. A new north–south route provided by the ALWEG-style Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail opened in November 1998. The southern terminus is at Tama Center on Keio's Sagamihara and Odakyu's Tama lines. The monorail also connects with other stations on Keio's lines, the JR East Chuo Line, and the Seibu Haijima Line. The northern section from Kamikitadai to Tachikawa-kita opened in November 1998, while the southern section from Tachikawa-kita to Tama Center opened in January 2000. The 16.0-km route from Tama Center to Kamikitadai with 19 stations in all is covered in 36 minutes. The operator is a public–private entity financed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, municipalities served by the line, and railway companies. Construction costs were subsidized through a Ministry of Construction (now Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport) support programme for urban monorails, greatly reducing the burden of infrastructure costs.
The monorail serves major commercial districts like Tama Center and Tachikawa, as well destinations such as the National Showa Memorial Park and a number of universities. In FY2000, the ridership was 29.13 million. Trains run at 6-minute intervals during busy periods and at 10-minute intervals during other hours. Plans call for the construction of another 7-km section between Kamikitadai and Hakonegasaki.