One of the Japanese government’s economic stimulus plans is to decrease the tolls on all roads to just 1,000 yen maximum per day on weekends and public holidays starting on the 28th or March, and from the 12th March 2009 they also introduced a subsidy of 5,250 yen for cars and 15,750 yen for motorcyclists who fitted ETC devices, Electronic Toll Collection devices, as the system only applies to ETC card holders. To see what people thought of this, DIMSDRIVE Research loooked at ETC purchase support system and toll road usage discounts.
Between the 4th and 16th of April 2009 5,547 driving license-holding, and with a family car, members of the DIMSDRIVE monitor group completed a private online questionnaire. 52.9% of the sample were male, 0.2% aged 18 or 19, 11.8% in their twenties, 36.9% in their thirties, 29.9% in their forties, 14.9% in their fifties, and 6.3% aged sixty or older. 69.2% were the main users of a car, and the other 30.8% had access to the family vehicle.
Note that even without the discount system or for weekday usage, fitting an ETC makes sense as fees are slightly lower as you get charged for the exact distance you travel, not a rounded-up fee; on the Osaka to Kobe expressway, for instance, it is normally a flat fare of 700 yen, but with ETC if you only travel part-way you get a refund as you exit.
In Q9, it seems odd that even those without ETC will increase their usage.
One issue that gets swept under the carpet is the increase in CO2 and other pollutants caused by heavier vehicle usage, and also there may be heavier traffic, causing jams and higher fuel consumption from idling. Here’s an interesting set of figures found on Google about how small towns create disproportionate amounts of CO2.
Q1: Does your car have an ETC device installed? (Sample size=5,547)
Installed it before the discount system was introduced 50.5% Installed it after the discount system was introduced (12th March 2009 onwards) 2.6% Installed it but don’t use it 1.1% Don’t have an ETC system 44.7% Don’t know 1.1%
The next pair of questions were for those with ETC devices.
Q2A: Have you used the 1,000 yen discount scheme yet? (Sample size=3,069)
Used it 70.5% Haven’t used it 29.5%
The use of it was highest in the most heavily built-up areas, not surprisingly, around Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.
Q2B: Have you used the 1,000 yen discount scheme yet? (by frequence of using toll roads) (Sample size=3,069)
Used percentage Almost every week
89.6% One or three times a month
81.7% Once every two or three months
74.8% Once every four to six months
61.8% Once every seven months to a year
42.3% Less than that
30.0% Don’t use
The next two questions were for those who used the subsidy to install an ETC device.
Q3: What was the main reason why you installed an ETC device using the subsidy? (Sample size=146)
Because the standard usage fees are cheaper 45.2% Because the discount system was introduced 41.1% Because I’d wanted to install it for a while 8.2% Other 3.4% Don’t know 2.1%
Q4: Before subsidy, how much did your ETC device cost? (Sample size=146)
Under 5,000 yen 13.2% 5,000 to 9,999 yen 25.7% 10,000 to 14,999 yen 29.4% 15,000 to 19,999 yen 22.8% 20,000 yen or more 8.8%
I think that Q4 includes installation.
The next question was for those who installed an ETC device during the subsidy period, but didn’t use the subsidy.
Q5: Why did you not use the subsidy when you got your ETC device installed? (Sample size=61, multiple answer)
Procedures were bothersome 24.6% There were no shops supporting the system 24.6% Didn’t know about the system 16.4% Went to a shop supporting the system, but they were sold out 13.1% Other 32.8% Don’t know 3.3%
Q6: Do you want to use the subsidy to install an ETC device? (Sample size=2,478)
Really want to install 19.9% Perhaps want to install 27.0% Can’t say, don’t know 25.9% Perhaps don’t want to install 13.2% Don’t want to install at all 14.0%
Now, back to the full sample.
Q7: Did you know that from 28th March there was a discount scheme for road tolls introduced? (Sample size=5,547)
Knew about it 98.1% Didn’t know about it 1.9%
Q8: Before the introduction of the discount scheme, how often did you use toll roads at weekends? (Sample size=5,547)
Almost every week 2.4% One or three times a month 15.3% Once every two or three months 22.1% Once every four to six months 15.0% Once every seven months to a year 10.7% Less than that 16.8% Don’t use 17.6%
Q9: Due to the introduction of the discount scheme, how will your use of toll roads at weekends change? (Sample size=5,547)
Will increase a lot 8.8% Will increase a little 42.9% Won’t increase 48.4%
Just over 60% of those in their twenties will increase their usage, whereas under 40% of those over sixty will. Overall, 64% of those with ETC will increase their usage, whereas only 37% of those without will.
Q10: Due to the introduction of the discount scheme, in what way will your use of toll roads at weekends change? (Sample size=5,547, multiple answer)
Have more opportunities to go to further-off places 36.3% Will use toll roads more on weekends 34.6% Will go on trips, drives more often 28.2% Will use the car more when going out 17.2% Will change my routes (not avoid toll roads) 10.2% Will use trains less on weekends 3.5% Will use toll roads less on weekdays 3.1% Will use toll roads less on weekends 1.5% Other 1.6% No particular change 42.8%
The trend for all top five answers was that younger people will change their habits more. By area of residence, the biggest change would be for residents of the island of Shikoku. That island is connected to the mainland by quite expensive bridges, so that suggests that the tolls are reducing some of the worth of the bridges to the residents. The two mainland areas the other side of the bridges, Kinki and Chugoku, sees a similar prediction of increase in travel, so perhaps the effect works both ways.