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Highway officials push for ETC while discount tickets discontinued

Date Posted: 2005-04-23

Officials at the Japan Highway Public Corporation are urging drivers to start using electronic toll collection (ETC) devices, and at the same time announced that as of April 1 they have discontinued selling popular discount tickets that can be used on nation’s toll roads.

The tickets, although no more in printing are still available on many gasoline stands and offer 20 percent discount on the road tolls, on the Okinawa Expressway here.

Highway Corp. officials say that the reason they decided to abolish the tickets was the large number of counterfeit tickets that criminal gangs have been peddling mostly in big cities in mainland.

Instead, they urge motorists to install the electronic devices that only four percent of motorists in Okinawa currently use. Nationwide 31 percent of cars have the ETC device.

However, that has not convinced most Okinawan drivers who complain that ETC devices are costly at up to \50,000. Another complaint up to now has been that ETC offered a discount of only 10 percent and in many drivers’ minds that has not been enough to justify the cost.

In a move to boost the popularity of the ETC, the highway corporation recently introduced a new system that offers drivers 50 percent discount from 6 to 9 in the morning and 5 to 7 in the afternoon when most people travel to work or from work.

The Okinawa Prefecture Union of Chambers of Commerce has lodged a petition to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation for the Japan Highway Public Corporation to continue to sell the discount tickets pointing out that especially in Okinawa where there are no railroads for mass transportation, people rely heavily on private cars for their commuting. The Okinawa Union of Municipalities joined in the petition. “If the discount ticket system is discontinued, it would place a heavy burden on Okinawan Citizens,” a spokesman for the group said.

“I have to think either moving my house or switching my job, and both are options that cause me a headache,” a man who lives in Ginoza but commutes to his job in Naha every day said, adding “Either way is going to mess up my budget.”

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