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Nara bus terminal allows same-day reservations to solve tourist congestion

Tourist buses are seen using the Nara Park Bus Terminal in the city of Nara on April 13, 2019. (Mainichi/Akira Inoh)

NARA -- The Nara Park Bus Terminal in this western Japan city has started allowing bus operators to make same-day reservations on any day of the week, beginning on Oct. 10, prefectural government officials said.

The Nara Prefectural Government has spent about 4.5 billion yen on the terminal, which opened this spring. Until now, bus operators willing to use the facility -- situated just east of the prefectural government building -- were generally required to make reservations at least a day in advance.

But the system's inconvenience has led to multiple problems such as tour buses crowding other parking spaces nearby, and the terminal has failed to attract a sufficient number of users.

Consequently, operators for Kasugataisha Shrine and Kohfukuji Temple decided to prioritize individual visitors and ban buses from using their facilities' parking lots on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays during October and November, because tourist buses were jamming theirs and other parking lots.

By changing their terms of use, the prefectural government is attempting to improve convenience for bus operators and improve the situation. In September, the prefectural government increased the number of buses allowed to use Nara Park Bus Terminal per hour from 48 to 78. At the same time, the terminal decided to permit bus operators to make same-day reservations on a trial basis, but limited it to Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays in October and November.

According to the prefectural government, a total of 331 buses, of which about 270 made advance reservations and 61 made same-day reservations, used the terminal under the initial changes on Oct. 5 and 6. It represented a nearly twofold rise on the 168 buses that used the facility on Sept. 28 and 29.

But since there are no parking spaces at the terminal, once they drop off passengers, bus drivers need to wait at a parking area about 1 kilometer away, or another space situated approximately 5 kilometers away. A bus driver complained they "cannot rest" because of the time it takes to get to the parking area and come back.

During a regular press conference on Oct. 9, Nara Gov. Shogo Arai expressed his inclination to turn the site of an old factory situated south of the Suzaku-mon Hiroba Square in Nara Palace Site Historical Park into a parking area for buses, as part of efforts to improve the situation.

(Japanese original by Tatsu Shingu, Nara Bureau)

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