Plans afoot to curb traffic congestion caused by tour buses

JIJI

The Japan Tourism Agency is hoping to reduce traffic congestion caused by a growing number of sightseeing buses taking tourists on shopping sprees.

Under a trial to begin in April, the agency has said it will first target particularly congested districts in central Tokyo, including Ginza, Asakusa, Shinjuku and Akihabara.

However, the plan could be rolled out in other major cities, including Osaka and Kyoto, as well as Hakata Port in Fukuoka Prefecture, which has a growing number of cruise ship arrivals.

The number of visitors to Japan hit a record high 19.74 million in 2015, with most tourists traveling to cities along the “golden route” linking Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka.

However, the influx has meant shopping districts in popular tourist areas are often crowded with chartered tour buses, leading to problems caused by long waits for customers who often make bulky purchases.

The issue has led to police receiving complaints about traffic disruptions.

In the trial, the agency plans to guide buses to designated parking areas or vacant land away from the shopping areas.

The tourists would then be collected when they finish sightseeing or shopping.

It is understood the trial will be carried out for several months ahead of a decision on more permanent measures.

For cruise ship visitors on package tours, the agency will consider setting several driving routes for tour buses heading to the same destinations in order to limit traffic congestion.