Tokyo’s 20/20 transportation vision kicks into gear for upcoming Summer Olympics - Mobility Lab

The Tokyo metropolitan area currently sees “about 13 million people commute daily,” Tokyo Olympics spokesperson Masa Takaya wrote in response to an emailed question concerning how people will get around the city during the 2020 Summer Games.

With 8 million visitors expected for the event, decreasing vehicle traffic by 15 percent over the next 30 months is seen as essential for preventing the Olympics from overwhelming the activities of daily life.

Faced with a problem akin to superimposing a new city upon the existing one, Tokyo officials are looking at expanding telecommuting and introducing staggered work schedules. They have also bolstered transportation demand management initiatives.

TDM already is quite developed in Tokyo, where “employees’ commuting expenses are generally covered by their companies,” Takaya noted.

The Tokyo region’s public transportation system is also more extensive than that for any U.S. city except New York. Despite this, the fact that 53 percent of Tokyo’s commuters take trains and only 24 percent depend on cars to get to work makes meeting the traffic-reduction goal a challenge, he said.

Adding to the difficulty, the Tokyo Olympics will be more dispersed than previous games, even lacking a central Olympic Village. The far-flung venues “will increase the need for transportation and for more sophisticated traffic operations,” Takaya said.

Still, commutes are famously crowded in Tokyo, and city officials are getting creative in identifying new ways to reduce all work-related travel ahead of the Olympics. One idea that might appeal in many places involves incentivizing businesses to allow working mothers to telecommute. Officials have also encouraged metro residents to schedule their 2020 summer vacations for late July and early August.

In conjunction with TDM, the city will employ a traffic management system with “traffic-control measures at tollbooths on expressways and at the entrances of expressways that are likely to be congested,” Takaya said. An interactive information-technology system will allow vehicles to communicate and plan optimum routes.

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