The transport ministry plans to trial lower base fares for short taxi rides in Tokyo and Osaka in a bid to get more elderly people and foreign tourists using taxis.
A ministry official said Thursday that the initiative will be rolled out in the year from April.
At present, customers pay ¥730 for the first 2 km in central Tokyo and ¥90 for every 280 meters thereafter. Proposals being considered include shrinking the base fare to either ¥370 for the first 0.88 km or ¥460 for the first 1.16 km. The additional ¥90 per 280 meters would apply thereafter.
Details are yet to be hammered out, but funds for the trials have been set aside for the next fiscal year budget, said the official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, who declined to be named.
Base fares in other major cities are lower than those in Tokyo. In New York, customers are charged $2.5 (about ¥280) for the first 0.2 miles (320 meters), while in London the fee is £2.4 (about ¥400 or $3.4) for the first 260 meters.
According to a 2014 survey by the Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association, 27 percent of customers were charged the minimum base fare, for journeys that averaged 1.41 km. The ministry wants to boost the number of people using taxis by lowering the base fare.
It plans to call on taxi operators to participate in the trial after the ministry’s panel of experts draws up details. Trials are likely to be limited to major cities where base fares are high, the official said.
Although the ministry has been urging taxi operators to lower their base fares, the firms believe it will result in lower revenue.
In 1997, 16 taxi operators introduced taxis with base fares of ¥340 for the first 1 km.
Although this boosted the number of short-distance users, it failed to make up for the loss, which explained why only 4 percent of some 45,000 taxis in Tokyo introduced the system. The lowered rates were scrapped five years later.