The Ministry of Transportation and Communications is considering introducing a taxi service for pregnant women as well as for elderly and handicapped passengers. The ministry said that drivers of vans or station wagons would be able to apply to offer the service.
Currently, rehabilitation bus services are available only to handicapped passengers on a limited number of routes and set service hours. In addition, those wanting to access the service must make reservations.
To meet the rising demand for transportation in an ageing society, the ministry said it hoped to expand the barrier-free taxi service market — taxis that cater to people whose movement is impaired — by introducing more flexible services.
Apart from handicapped passengers, the service would be expanded to elderly passengers, pregnant women and children, it said. Based on a plan proposed by the ministry, cab drivers wanting to offer the service must have a van or a station wagon for passenger use only, not cargo vans.
The vehicle must be equipped with a wheelchair lift, movable ramps or swing-out seats. The entrance for the wheelchair and the space inside the vehicle reserved for the wheelchair must adhere to the specifications set by the ministry.
In addition, drivers are required to complete an officially sanctioned training program and obtain certification before they can legally provide the service.
The ministry proposed that rates for barrier-free taxi services should be determined by local governments, adding that local governments were encouraged to offer subsidies for handicapped public servants to use the system.
According to the ministry, different countries have different ways of charging customers for using such a service.
Customers in Germany and the US pay the same rate as regular cab passengers, whereas those in Canada and Hong Kong are charged higher than regular customers.
Passengers of barrier-free taxi services in Japan, on the other hand, are charged 10 percent less than regular customers.