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A staggering 90% of Okinawans drive cars

Date Posted: 2008-12-31

A lack of railroads in Okinawa, coupled with limited mass transit options, makes Okinawa the land of individuals who drive personal vehicles virtually everywhere.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, in a newly released study of vehicle transport statistics, says Okinawa ranks the 6th worst of Japan’s 47 prefectures in traffic jams and lost hours, and that’s based on 2005 figures. In reality, Okinawa’s circumstances are beyond 90% of prefecture’s adult residents being behind the wheel of a car, and it gets more complicated from there.

Okinawa’s lack of extensive public mass transit systems is a major factor, with only four bus lines servicing the main island and a single monorail line that reaches few communities, creating congested roads. Okinawa’s road network wasn’t designed for the high volume traffic now being experienced, causing every single one kilometer traffic jam to result in 41,000 people losing an hour’s time over a year.

The ministry says that’s significant, because it’s more than double the national average of 20,000 people losing an hour’s time annually for each one kilometer traffic snarl up. A widespread rail network in mainland Japan takes the stress off the roadway system, except in major cities. Compared to Okinawa’s 41,000 people losing time for each kilometer, Tokyo’s the worst, impacting 141,000 people for each kilometer. Osaka is second, with 100,000 people feeling the pinch. Kanagawa Prefecture is third, with 78,000 people who lose an hour’s time annually for each kilometer of traffic jams.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport says more studies are needed to determine how to untie Okinawa’s traffic jams. They plan to examine the major points where traffic tie ups occur, and determine where traffic flow contributing to the traffic jams originate. Another suggestion, which officials say is probably unworkable, is to declare a ‘no car’ day for each individual or family each week, or on some set schedule.

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