National

Tokyo expressway to hike tolls by ¥1,000 to curb traffic during Olympic events

Kyodo

Tokyo’s Metropolitan Expressway will adjust tolls for private vehicles during next year’s Olympics and Paralympics, charging more when events are held and less in the early hours, the metropolitan government and games organizers said Monday.

Under the road pricing system, ¥1,000 ($9.50) will be added to regular tolls in Tokyo from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the events. Buses, taxis, trucks and pre-registered assistive vehicles for people with disabilities will be exempt from the surcharge, they said.

In a bid to encourage logistics companies to use roads late at night and early in the morning, tolls on the expressway across downtown Tokyo will be halved from midnight to 4 a.m. for vehicles equipped with an electronic toll collection device, or ETC, they added.

With the introduction of the system, the expressway operator’s revenue is expected to increase. The extra earnings will go into updating its toll collection system and boosting public relations activities.

The system is expected to be adopted next year from July 20 to Aug. 10, and from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6, the metropolitan government and games organizers said.

According to estimates by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the National Police Agency, it would take 80 minutes to travel some 18 kilometers between the waterfront Olympic Village in the Harumi area of Chuo Ward and the New National Stadium in Shinjuku Ward if no measures were taken.

By taking steps such as closing some expressway entrances and adjusting charges, the travel time will be reduced to 20 minutes, they said.

To mitigate congestion, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and some firms have staggered working hours and introduced telecommuting on a trial basis.

The transport ministry conducted traffic volume control tests on the expressway on July 24 and 26, but achieved a reduction far smaller than the targeted 30 percent.

According to the ministry, traffic volume declined by 7.3 percent from a year earlier on July 24 and fell 6.8 percent July 26, when traffic was heavier.

“We are most afraid of the confusion caused by chronic congestion, so we have to seek the understanding” of the public with regards to the road pricing system, said a senior transport ministry official who recognized that the plan places a heavy burden on commuters.