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Midnight bus route nixed, public, police worry

Date Posted: 1998-05-16

A regular bus route, run at midnight from Naha City to Okinawa City since April a year ago will be canceled due to lack of passengers, officials at the bus company announced recently. They said that the route would be discontinued from the end of this month.

The bus company set up the route originally on advice from the police, to give late night revelers an affordable way to get back home safely and reduce incidents of drunk driving. In the beginning, the idea seemed to work well with each bus having an average of 40 passengers. However, the number has since declined to 10 or less which is not enough to keep the route profitable, according to officials at the bus company. "We see no other alternative than discontinue this line," an official at the bus company stated.

The route was started after statistics showed that of the 83 traffic deaths in Okinawa Prefecture last year, alcohol played a role in 53 percent. With that figure, Okinawa earned the dubious honor of being the worst among all Japanese prefectures, having 3.6 times the national average of deadly alcohol related traffic accidents per every thousand car.

Bus company officials say that for some reason, the number of passengers on the route started to decline in October when the numbers fell to half of the initial. "This development forced us to change the schedule from the beginning of this year from twice a week and two times a day to twice a week but only one bus a day. Even then we have only about 10 passengers per bus and that makes it impossible for us to continue.

Okinawa Prefecture Police would like to see the line continue. "We can see clearly that this midnight route has decreased the number of drunk driving incidents. But we also understand the concern of the bus company," a spokesman for the prefecture police said.

A regular customer would like to retain the route also. "This bus costs 890 from Naha City to Okinawa City. A taxi fare is 4,000 or more, so it is affordable. But the bus should start a little later and not only on weekends but also on weekdays," one satisfied man who said that he used the route quite regularly said.

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