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Olympic squeeze: Fingers continue to creep toward the panic button

The countdown until the opening of the 2020 Olympic Games has passed 500 days. Projections keep coming in about public transport in the greater Tokyo area becoming overwhelmed.
Yes, concedes Nikkei Business (March 25), hosting the Games next year can be expected to generate a windfall of 32 trillion yen into Japan's economy. But there will be downsides. On March 15, the Tokyo Metro announced that it would extend train runs in the early morning and past midnight. While construction work on the new national stadium and new sports facilities along Tokyo Bay appear to be proceeding on schedule, the railway network, expressways and regular roads face the prospect of transport meltdowns.
During the Games, a total of 33 classes of sports totaling 339 competitive events will be held at 42 venues. From July 24 to Aug 9, this will attract an estimated 10 million people from Japan and abroad. The Games' organizers and government have appealed to transportation companies; the Tokyo Metro was the first to respond.
Still, in addition to expanding its schedule and running extra trains, the metro will be obliged to cope with the city's notorious morning rush hour. The venerable Ginza Line, for example, already runs trains at intervals of two to three minutes between 7 and 9 a.m., and Metro's PR department tells Nikkei Business there's simply no way to increase the frequency. The same case would apply to most of the other commuter rail operators.
A simulation of activity at stations proximate to the various events, conducted by Professor Azuma Taguchi of the Chuo University's Faculty of Science and Engineering, estimates that passenger demand at major train stations such as Shinjuku and Tokyo is likely to double.
As a proactive measure to reduce passenger demand, major employers -- particularly those located close to sports venues -- have been requested to consider city hall's 2020 "Action Plan," which calls for greater application of flextime and working from home. However, such measures on the part of the government and private sector are already in place to some degree, so any increase is likely to be limited. As a last-ditch plan, companies may also be encouraged to simply declare an extended holiday and close their offices for the duration.
In addition to the flow of people, there is also the matter of distribution of goods, which is also likely to be severely affected. The Tokyo metropolitan government is said to have appealed to ordinary drivers to reduce traffic by at least 10% on weekdays. In response, tire manufacturer Bridgestone announced it is considering "to proactively stock sales outlets with extra inventory in advance, as well as to operate its deliveries late at night, when traffic is lighter."
While still undecided at this point, various other measures, including restrictions on entry onto the expressways or raising the tolls are said to be under consideration.
Yet another genuine concern is an insufficiency of accommodations in the city. CBRE, a major real estate service firm, estimated in 2018 that Tokyo's 23 wards could expect a shortfall of 3,500 rooms, with no hope of meeting demand by the time of the games. The law of supply and demand is likely to drive up prices: a spokesperson for the Fukukoku Life Insurance Group was quoted as saying that even ordinary business hotels in the city might get away with overnight rates of "20,000 to 30,000 yen." And a source at a major travel agency says businesses may have no choice but to significantly curtail employee business travel to Tokyo until the Olympic flame is extinguished.


© Japan Today
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