Business

Tokyo wants people to go to work earlier to ease train crush

Bloomberg

Being pushed onto already jam-packed trains during Tokyo rush hour is never a pleasant commuter experience. It only gets worse during the humid summer months.

That’s why Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has launched the Jisa Biz campaign to combat train overcrowding in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

As part of the initiative, which roughly translates to “flex-hour business,” about 740 participating companies, including Pfizer Inc. and Microsoft Corp., are providing more flexible work hours and also including the option to work from home or remotely. Some even provide breakfast at the office to encourage an earlier start.

Some metro operators are doing their part by adding more weekday morning trains for the campaign.

“This will be the second year we implement Jisa Biz with the catch phrase ‘If mornings can change, every day can change,’ ” Koike said last month while she announced the initiative, which runs from July 9 to Aug. 10.

Tokyo’s “commuter hell” has eased since its peak in the 1960s and 1970s when congestion was so bad that window panes would crack under the strain of numerous bodies packed into the cars. But commuters still have to push their way onto trains on many of the more crowded lines.

The Jisa Biz initiative comes as the central government has been encouraging more workplace and work-hour flexibility to accommodate female workers as well as increase participation in the broader labor force.

About 260 companies and municipal offices took part last summer when the Tokyo Metropolitan Government ran a similar campaign.

But commuters say the effect on morning congestion has been minimal at best.

Akira Monri, a 28-year-old app developer, says he hasn’t noticed much difference during his commute to central Tokyo.

“I’ve seen the posters but I’m not sure what hours we’re supposed to avoid to qualify as Jisa Biz.”