Easing Regulations on Shared Taxis in Run-up to 2020

May 10, 2017


Asahi Shimbun reports:

Hailing a cab in major cities in Japan could become easier, if you are willing to share the ride with a stranger.

Transport authorities are steering toward easing regulations on shared taxi rides in areas across Japan that will be centered on urban regions.

The transport ministry is hoping it would alleviate a number of problems, including an ongoing surge in the number of tourists from abroad and the prospect of taxis being in short supply during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2020.

Taxi sharing could be allowed by the end of fiscal 2018 at the earliest.

The Road Transportation Law provides that a taxi operator, just like a bus company, is entitled to run shared vehicles only if it has obtained a business license for “shared passenger transportation.”

But one of the licensing requirements says that approval must be obtained from a local council for discussing transportation affairs. That has set high hurdles for would-be entrants, and shared taxis have mostly been allowed to operate only in limited cases, such as in depopulated areas and along fixed routes from an airport to a station.

The changes being floated will allow applicants to file for a business license even without a similar approval, either by amending licensing standards or by creating a new exemption. The transport ministry is planning to work with an industry group to conduct a public trial in Tokyo this winter.

The extent of the areas for deregulation has yet to be worked out.

Taxi sharing is intended to help solve a shortage of cabs during the Olympic Games and other major events, on rainy days and on other occasions. The taxi industry also hopes to tap into new demand at a time when the annual number of taxi passengers has fallen 30 percent over the last decade.

Industry officials are hoping that taxi sharing could significantly lower fares per rider and thereby generate new demand, for example, among home-goers traveling from urban centers to suburbs.

In preparation for the public trial, an operator is developing a smartphone app for matching customers with destinations lying in the same direction and for dividing fares among them. The system will be modeled after taxi booking apps, which are becoming increasingly widespread in recent years.

Details of the system, including how to divide fares among ride-sharers, have yet to be worked out. The share to be paid by each party will be calculated in accordance with travel distances.

Consideration will also be given to requests from customers who do not want others to know where they live and who do not wish to share a ride with someone of the opposite sex.

Apps are currently available for taxi passengers to find ride partners with whom to share a taxi. Such apps do not violate the law because taxis are not calling for passengers to share rides, officials said.

Source: Asahi Shimbun Online, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705100010.html

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