Community Bus in Tokyo: Promoting Community Initiative through Decentralisation
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Public transport can be justified as a public good. Its delivery, however, often proves problematic as it relies on significant government subsidies, especially in the context of low-density urban sprawls. Even in cities with extensive and efficient mass transit systems, coverage of local feeder bus services is often limited. 'Community bus' initiatives in Japan represent a major decentralisation of public transport service provision, whereby decision-making authority shifts to the local government at the city/ward level. A community bus initiative typically involves innovative and effective partnerships between local government, the local community and private operators. Focusing on the decentralisation of authority to enable city/ward governments to initiate innovation in local public transport plans and services through partnerships with the community, this paper describes community bus initiatives being tried out in Japan. Through a review of recent legislative changes and the literature coupled with a study of various community bus schemes in and around Tokyo, the study seeks to describe the roles assumed by main actors, the means adopted to mobilise community resources and the type and level of services provided by local authorities. The paper attempts to draw out models of governance, community engagement and the operationalisation of public-private and community partnerships in the inception and implementation of local transport solutions as part of local area improvement planning. The paper draws conclusions on the strengths and weaknesses of the evolving model and makes recommendation on improving its effectiveness.
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