Cab firms started experimenting with a lower minimum fare of ¥410 on Friday in four wards in central Tokyo to assess demand for short trips among tourists and the elderly.
The trial fares will be offered at Shinbashi Station in Minato Ward through Sept. 15, and over 10-day periods in turn at spots in Taito, Shinjuku and Bunkyo wards.
While the initial fare is usually ¥730 for the first 2 km in Tokyo’s 23 wards and the adjacent cities of Musashino and Mitaka, the lower trial fare of ¥410 will apply to the first 1.059 km.
This means the cost of a trip will be cheaper for journeys up to 2 km but could be higher over longer distances.
At a taxi stand in Shinbashi, people of all generations were waiting to try the cheaper taxis.
“A cheaper minimum taxi fare would be great, especially for people in a hurry because of train delays,” a 39-year-old woman said.
A couple in their 70s said they wanted to try the new fare to calculate the overall cost of taking a taxi to their destination.
Besides Shinbashi, taxis with the trial fare will be available at Asakusa Station in Taito Ward, Shinjuku Station and the University of Tokyo Hospital in Bunkyo Ward.
The trial is being undertaken at the request of the taxi companies, which want the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry to formally lower the minimum fare to around the ¥400 range in the capital.
According to a 2014 survey by the Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association, 27 percent of customers were charged the base fare for journeys that averaged 1.41 km. The ministry thus wants to boost taxi use by lowering the base fare.
This is not the first time the capital’s taxi industry has experimented with lower fares. In 1997, 16 taxi operators introduced a fare of ¥340 for the first kilometer.
Although short-distance riders increased, it turned out to be a money-losing venture, and only 4 percent of the 45,000 or so taxis in Tokyo ended up adopting the system.
The lower rates were scrapped five years later.