Staff writer

More people are shifting from private vehicles to public transportation on weekends because of a discount fare system introduced by a bus operator in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Kanagawa Chuo Kotsu Co., which covers most of Kanagawa Prefecture plus some areas in Tokyo and Yamanashi Prefecture, gives discount rates to relatives of pass holders on weekends and holidays, company officials said. The fee is 100 yen for adults and 50 yen for children on any of the company’s routes, while regular fares for adults range between 160 yen and 660 yen. “We hope to regain passengers that have been lost in recent years,” a company official said.

So far, the plan seems to be working. “About 2,000 people are using this system on an average weekend,” the official said.

Dubbed the “environmental commuter pass” system, it is designed to reduce air pollution by encouraging people to take the bus instead of using their own vehicle, according to the company. Kanagawa Chuo Kotsu is said to be the first to introduce such a system in Japan and has also installed a device in some of its buses that controls pollution by automatically shutting off the engine when the bus is at a halt.

The discount system was modeled after a similar program in the industrial city of Freiburg, Germany. When trees in the Black Forest north of the city began to wither in the 1970s, apparently because of vehicle emissions, the city took action.

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