Kyoto, a city renowned for its historic and cultural attractions, is seeking to impose additional charges on tourists using its city buses to address overcrowding issues and declining ridership.
Addressing Overcrowding and Declining Ridership
Kyoto’s municipal government is asking permission to charge tourists higher bus fares than locals. The proposal serves two contradictory purposes. In an interview with Kansai TV, Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa emphasized that the primary objective is reducing crowding on city-operated buses to improve residents’ comfort levels.
Though not explicitly stated as a goal, the city’s documents further justify the proposal by citing a 14.2 percent drop in bus ridership since the pandemic began and financial losses sustained for the past three years. Increased tourist fares are believed to address these concerns as people continue to travel and Japan moves towards a post-pandemic environment.
Plan Includes Both Domestic and International Travelers
The revised pricing system would affect international visitors and Japanese citizens outside Kyoto. Even those living in other parts of Kyoto Prefecture would be subject to higher rates under this proposal, which divides riders into two groups: Kyoto City residents and tourists.
Implementing the New Pricing System
The Kyoto City Transportation Bureau discusses using special cashless payment IC cards linked to government-issued My Number ID cards tied to the holder’s home address. This method would charge lower fares for residents. Another possibility involves designing certain vehicles in the fleet as “tourist buses,” which would charge all passengers higher rates.
However, current laws forbid “unreasonable or unfair fare discrepancies” in bus networks. It remains unclear whether additional charges for public transportation fall under this category. Therefore, Kyoto’s government has submitted its proposal to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism for legal clarification.
End of the Popular Kyoto One-Day Bus Ticket
With its numerous cultural sites, Kyoto has long attracted tourists who rely on city buses. For years, the popular One-Day Bus Ticket provided an affordable, convenient option at just 700 yen (US$5.35) for adults. However, it has become so convenient that it now poses discomfort for locals as buses often fill to capacity with visitors.
As a result, the Kyoto City Government announced the discontinuation of the One-Day Bus Ticket. Though it will still be available through September, sales (including pre-sales) will cease by the month’s end, and the passes will no longer be accepted after March 2024.
Instead, officials hope travelers will utilize Kyoto’s subway network or opt for the 1,100-yen combined one-day bus and subway pass, which will continue to be sold.