Elderly force subway to rethink ‘all priority seats’ policy

Kyodo

The Yokohama Municipal Subway, Japan’s only railway service that designates all its seating as “priority seats,” plans to spend ¥4 million introducing “super priority seats” this summer because passengers are refusing to relinquish their places for seniors and pregnant women.

The Yokohama Transportation Bureau said a growing number of passengers, mostly elderly people, have been struggling to find priority seats since train runs were reduced to save power after last March’s catastrophe.

The bureau distributed questionnaires to around 600 passengers and found that while 70 percent were in favor of the idea of priority seats, only half of those entitled to use them actually saw people get up.

The bureau will keep its “all seats are priority seats” policy intact, but add super priority seats. Though the specifics, such as the start date, are still being finalized, the bureau is planning to designate such seats in cars where mobile phone use is prohibited. It has earmarked around ¥4 million for the move in fiscal 2012.

Hankyu Corp., which runs a railway in the city of Osaka, and a few other railway operators in the Kansai area also tried designating all seating as priority seats but gave up after the move was not received well by passengers.