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Staff writer

KAMAKURA, Kanagawa Pref. — Most people have experienced irritation or even rage during traffic jams. The city of Kamakura, notorious for its congestion, has been attempting to address the problem for five years.

“It usually takes about an hour on weekdays to drive to the final bus stop on the route and back to Kamakura Station,” said a Kamakura bus driver. But on weekends, it takes three hours to make the same circuit, he said.

Five years ago, the city organized a research group made up of city officials, citizens and university professors to devise ways to alleviate the situation. It is virtually impossible to accommodate more cars by widening roads because of restrictions designed to preserve cultural assets.

Thus, the city, which was the site of the Kamakura shogunate from 1192 to 1333 and is a popular sightseeing spot, has come up with several measures to encourage people to use public transportation instead of their own vehicles. Two years ago, the research group tested the effectiveness of a “park and rail” project.

On Nov. 23 and 24, 1996, tourists were encouraged to park their cars close to Shichirigahama beach and take the private Enoshima Dentetsu (Enoden) Line train to Kamakura on a trial basis. The city charged 1,000 yen for parking, then handed drivers and passengers one-day passes for Enoden trains. “The results were remarkable,” said Takashi Miyazaki, chief of the city’s transportation policies section.

At the Namerigawa crossing, from where traffic had been backed up 3 km on a previous weekend in November 1996, the congestion extended a maximum of 45 meters during the two-day project, Miyazaki said. Miyazaki attributed the success of the project to publicity from the media. More than 20 newspapers and television stations reported on the project.

The research group will try out a second plan to reduce traffic from Saturday to June 7. One-day bus passes will be sold to tourists to encourage them not to drive into the city. The passes will be sold at Odakyu stations and green ticket windows at JR stations in connection with one-day Odakyu or JR train passes for Kamakura.

During the trial period, city officials will stand along Wakamiya-oji street — a common site of traffic jams because parked cars usually block one of the four lanes — and ask people not to illegally park there. “We hope these projects draw public attention,” Miyazaki said. “It will be difficult to ease congestion without the cooperation of the public.”

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