• Kyodo, JIJI

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With the Tokyo Games opening this week, measures were in full swing Monday to ensure the smooth transit of Olympic athletes and staff members.

The Metropolitan Police Department began operating dedicated and priority lanes for vehicles carrying Olympic-related passengers on roads near competition venues. Drivers of unrelated vehicles will be fined if they violate the regulations.

On the Metropolitan Expressway, which is a main conduit through the metropolitan area, a surcharge of ¥1,000 ($9) will be imposed on private vehicles using the expressway through Tokyo between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., beginning on Monday.

From 12 a.m. to 4 a.m., expressway tolls will be halved for all vehicles equipped with an electronic toll collection system. This discount will apply to the entire expressway, including in neighboring prefectures.

Workers print
Workers print “Tokyo 2020 only” on a dedicated lane on ahead of the introduction of priority lanes. | KYODO

By setting different tolls at different times, the expressway operator aims to alleviate congestion during daytime hours and encourage shifts in traffic demand — the first attempt of its kind in Japan.

The specialized schedule will be in place through Aug. 9, the day after the Olympic Games ends. The toll system will then be reinstated during the Paralympic Games from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5, for a total use of 35 days.

The surcharge will apply to all drivers, including those of minivehicles and motorcyclists who choose to pay in cash, with no nighttime discount.

To allow economic and urban activities to continue, trucks and taxis, for instance, will be exempted from the surcharge, together with emergency vehicles such as ambulances. Those transporting people with disabilities and other related vehicles will also be exempt if they are registered in advance.

The Japanese government, the Tokyo Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government decided in 2019 to impose the ¥1,000 surcharge in order to prevent congestion on the Metropolitan Expressway from affecting the movements of athletes and other people related to the sporting events.

A traffic sign for the Tokyo 2020 dedicated lane is set up on Sunday. | KYODO
A traffic sign for the Tokyo 2020 dedicated lane is set up on Sunday. | KYODO

Despite the postponement of the Games for one year and the barring of spectators from venues in the Tokyo metropolitan area in order to prevent infections, it was decided to go ahead with the surcharge plan, concluding that traffic volume will recover to normal levels.

Also on Monday, the Tokyo metropolitan government launched an information hub in the capital to introduce Japanese culture and promote tourism.

At the Tokyo Sports Square in Chiyoda Ward, volunteers will explain the history and culture of the capital. The hub will also provide work space for media workers that are covering events at the facility, which will remain open until September 5, the final day of the Paralympic games.

"We want to introduce Japanese tradition and innovation around the world." said Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike when she visited the venue.

Booths at the center will use robots and traditional crafts, as well as introduce food and drink from Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.

The facility also has exhibitions and videos documenting recovery efforts in areas of northeastern Japan hit by the 2011 massive earthquake-tsunami disaster and in Kumamoto Prefecture in the country's southwest, which was struck by a pair of powerful quakes in 2016.

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