One of Tokyo’s most crowded subway lines has come up with a most unusual way to ease rush hour congestion-- by offering free food to commuters.
With 7.2 million people commuting every day, Tokyo’s metro system is notorious for its jam-packed carriages and stuffy air. But a Japanese metro firm believes the solution to this problem might be a free bowl of noodles to workers who stop travelling at rush hour. The Tokyo Metro company will give a coupon for a bowl of soba noodles to every commuter who takes an earlier train for ten consecutive days, according to The Telegraph. Nearly 1,000 businesses are taking part in the campaign, allowing their staff to start and end work earlier than usual.
“We hope the campaign will contribute to reducing congestion during peak hours as more people take trains at different times,” said Takahiro Yamaguchi, a spokesman for Tokyo Metro.
The pilot project will be launched on the incredibly busy Tozai line, which is "chronically overcrowded" according to Yamaguchi. The Japan Times reported that commuters must sign up online and then use their travel card to swipe through the gates at a designated pre-rush hour time slot. Tokyo Metro added that the scheme will only be implemented if more than 2,000 commuters sign up, and if more than 3,000 do so, tempura will be added to the coupon menu. A mobile phone app has also been launched which allows travellers to keep track of when the trains are jam-packed.
Overcrowding is so severe that it could ruin the 2020 Olympics, which will be hosted in Tokyo and which is expected to attract an extra 650,000 people, acording to some experts. There are also concerns about tourists being unable to cope with the extreme overcrowding of metro stations during peak times.
More trains, or double-decker trains or simply adding carriages to existing trains were all considered at one point but rejected in the end as non-viable options. The most simple solution would be to allow employees to work from home or adopt more flexible shifts, but this would be hard to reconcile with the country's world-famous strict work ethic.