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Prefecture eyes light rail or a street car system

Date Posted: 2010-05-06

With Naha City’s Yuirail monorail system working in the capital city, Okinawa Prefecture is now trying to determine whether a light rail system or a set of street car routes is the best way to provide public transportation north of Naha.

The Prefecture is setting up money in its budget for the coming year, and is searching for the most practical and efficient means of serving citizens. The Japanese Cabinet Office is providing information and research results on public transit systems and costs. Costs are a driving factor, as politicians and government officials try to determine if there’s enough interest in a light rail or street car system to be practical and economically effective.

To build a new system is costly, so Prefecture officials are now trying to determine how profitable such a business would be, how much it would be used by tourists and visitors, and what is a practical way to build a new public transit system, considering potentially profitable routes that would travel across lands now occupied by U.S. military installations.

It’s all a part of Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s “Okinawa 21st Century Vision”, which factors many elements of American military reorganization that have been discussed in recent years. Basically, the U.S. has agreed to return all bases south of Kadena Air Base to the landowners, provided certain conditions—like transferring Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Henoko district in northern Okinawa—and time lines are met. Officials are studying the Naha City-operated monorail system to see of that should be a consideration for extension north.

Okinawa business and commerce organizations, including the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, have been lobbying the Prefecture for construction of some sort of light rail transit system from central Okinawa to the northern side of the island.

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