Here's another way to attract people to transit -- put a cat in charge of the local train station.
In 2007, Japan's financially beleaguered Wakayama Railroad was on the verge of closing its Kishi Station. But after a railroad executive adopted a local stray, Tama the calico cat became something of a local celebrity. Responsibility soon followed, and she was officially appointed station master. Her job, when she's not napping, is to greet passengers. (According to Wikipedia, "in lieu of a salary, the railway provides Tama with free cat food.")
Mitsunobu Kojima, the CEO of Wakayama Railroad, Kojima credits her with reviving the moribund railroad ("single-pawedly," according to the above Animal Planet segment.) Tama was credited with pumping as much as 1.1 billion yen (10.44 million dollars) into the local economy in 2007 alone.
Now, Tama has a Facebook page, Wakayama Railroad is chugging along, the trains have been redecorated, and the town is so cat-crazy it's possible to ride in a taxi cab festooned with 880 cats.
The cat train of the Wakayama Electric Railroad. (Photo by Douglass Sprott via flickr)
Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
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