Flat-floor buses with fewer steps leading to rear seats will start operating in Tokyo later this year as the Japanese capital gears up for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Tokyo already had 1,464 buses with a step-free entrance as of April last year, but passengers need to go up steps inside the bus to get to seats in the rear area that is elevated to accommodate space for the transmission and other equipment.
The Tokyo metropolitan government will introduce 29 new flat-floor buses designed specifically for the Japanese market by the Japan arm of Swedish commercial vehicle maker Scania.
(A man in a wheelchair boards a bus in Rio de Janeiro on Sept. 10, 2016, during the Paralympic Games)
"We want to make the flat-floor buses the standard type in the future," said a Tokyo government official.
The newly developed buses are priced at around 35 million yen ($320,000) each, about 1.5 times more expensive than the existing buses, but the Tokyo government deemed it a necessary cost to prepare for the 2020 event and earmarked about 1 billion yen in total in fiscal 2017 and 2018.
The steps in the existing buses have caused elderly people to fall when the vehicles stopped suddenly and caused passengers to gather in the front area, leading to overcrowding there.
In 2015, 490 accidents occurred aboard route buses nationwide, leaving 540 people injured, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.
A new flat-floor bus can accommodate up to 70 passengers, the same capacity as the buses currently in use. The new buses are expected to start operating from this fall on crowded routes and in areas with a lot of elderly passengers, the Tokyo government said.