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Taxi drivers win 12.4% fare hike this October

Date Posted: 2007-08-31

Getting into a taxi from October 1st will cost a bit more, as the starting fares jump Y50.

Okinawa taxi companies had appealed for the increase, the first since April 1995, citing rising fuel costs and increased competition from the Okinawa Monorail. The new fares approved by the Okinawa Prefecture General Bureau Transportation Office takes the starting fare from \450 to \500, which covers the first 1.8 km ride. After the initial 1.8 km, the taxi meters currently click \60 yen every 401 meters, but after the hike takes effect, the \60 will buy only 369 meters. Also starting in October, taxis can begin charging the late night fare an hour earlier, from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.

The last fare hike, 12 years ago, boosted the base fare from ¥400 to ¥450. The increased rate applies only to Okianwa’s main island. The Transportation Office says taxi companies on outer islands have not requested any rate increases.

In their request for the fare hike, taxi companies cited higher fuel costs and increased competition, particularly from Okinawa Monorail. Taxi companies also cited an increase in the number of rental cars on Okinawa’s roads, and said the requirement to hold training courses for drivers to promote better customer service and to improve driving manners, has increased their operating costs.

The Transportation Office itself noted in its authorization order that the drivers’ salaries are currently very low, and a raise was needed. It included an advisory note to that affect in the hike approval decision. The General Bureau conducted a survey on the need for a fare hike in January. The taxi companies had requested fare hikes ranging from 16.8 - 25.4 percent, but the Transportation Office deemed that too steep and agreed to a hike of 12.4 percent instead.

The chairman of Okinawa Taxi Operators’ Association admits that the fare hike may be a two-edged sword. “We may lose customers because of higher cost of the rides, but we will try hard to compensate with better service,” he said.

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