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Ministry to limit number of taxis in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2002-08-23

The National Land and Transportation Ministry has decided to put a cap on permissions on new taxis allowed to operate in Okinawa Prefecture. According to the decision no new taxi licenses will be issued from Sep. 1. The decision has prompted local taxi companies to rush in applications to increase their fleets by a total of 120 new taxis before the deadline.

The Ministry decision designates Okinawa a “Special Emergency Area.” New law that took effect Feb. 1 this year abolished the requirement for taxi companies to apply for permissions from the Ministry for each taxi. Instead, only a simple registration with the prefecture office was required. The ruling effectively reverses the law in Okinawa.

Ministry and Prefecture officials say that Okinawa has 4.1 taxis per 1,000 residents. The number is second only to Tokyo. And that’s too many, officials at the ministry say. The excess number of taxis causes congestion and increases pollution. They also claim that the fierce competition among drivers for customers causes them to become rude and disregard traffic regulations.

The Okinawa Prefecture Taxi Association is pleased with the Ministry’s decision. “Our policy has been for some time to reduce the number of taxis in Okinawa, and educate the drivers to give better service and have better manners. Now it’s like a jungle and just the opposite,” Taxi Association Chairman Takeshi Akamine says. He says that another consideration is the low average income created by taxis as an average daily take for a taxi in Okinawa is only ¥24,000 while the national average is ¥33,000. “Our target is to reduce the number of taxis by 20 percent,” Akamine states.

However, it is difficult to find any taxi operator who would volunteer to be the first to cut the fleet. A president of a taxi company who rushed to register 35 more taxis as soon as the ministry’s decision become known says that “We cannot afford to stand by while other companies are increasing the number of their taxis.” Another president whose company registered six new taxis claimed that there are plenty of customers. “We operate in Naha City and its surroundings where there are plenty of people. It’s possible to make a good profit,” he claims.

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