Tokyo and Kyoto lead the way as Japan opens up ride-hailing services

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Japan has taken a significant step towards addressing its nationwide taxi driver shortage by easing restrictions on ride-hailing services in key urban areas. The move, which began on Monday, allows drivers with standard licenses to offer taxi services on specified days and hours using their own vehicles, under the management of a local taxi company.

This partial lifting of the ban initially covers Tokyo, Kyoto, and other regions, with plans to expand to additional areas as early as May. The services are currently available daily in Tokyo’s 23 wards, Musashino, and Mitaka, as well as in Kyoto. In the Keihin area around Yokohama, and the Nagoya region, services are offered on Fridays and weekends.

The expansion will continue to areas centered on cities such as Sapporo, Sendai, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. This phased approach allows for a data-driven determination of operating hours and the number of vehicles dispatched, based on user demand from ride-hailing apps.

To ensure safety and quality of service, drivers will need to renew their permit every two years under this new system. Additionally, only cashless payments will be accepted, enhancing convenience for passengers.

While this step marks progress, discussions are ongoing regarding the full lifting of the ban on ride-hailing services like Uber, which directly connect private car owners with passengers. For now, this measured approach aims to improve transportation options, particularly during peak demand periods, in major urban centers across Japan.

(Source: The Straits Times | Japan Times | Kyodo News)

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