Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

The transport ministry will conduct a trial run of taxi sharing services that could help deal with cab shortages amid surges in overseas tourists and may substantially reduce fares per person.

The ministry intends to identify possible hurdles through the trial that will take place between Jan. 22 and March 11 and cover Tokyo’s 23 wards as well as Musashino and Mitaka cities in the capital. It will use 950 cabs from 15 companies in the Daiwa Motor Transportation and Nihon Kotsu groups.

Cab sharing services are currently limited to sparsely populated regions and elsewhere.

But a taxi shortage is expected when the number of sightseers from abroad soars for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Based on the results of the trial, the ministry will decide whether to allow taxi operators to offer sharing services across the nation. If the trial proves successful, rules on cab fares would be revised by the end of next fiscal year.

In the test, a cab booking app for smartphones will enable customers heading in the same direction to share a taxi and the cost based on the distance of their rides. Drivers will be able to receive a 20 percent higher charge than for one-person rides.

One estimate shows the fare for a three-people ride from JR Kinshicho Station in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward to Tokyo Metro Urayasu Station, JR Funabashi Station and JR Tsudanuma Station, all in Chiba Prefecture. The fare to Urayasu, the first stop on the ride, would cost the passenger 3,690 yen ($32.84), or 40 percent cheaper than the fare of 5,960 yen for a one-person ride.

The number of taxi users has dropped 30 percent over the last 10 years. Cab operators expect the sharing service to help lure new customers.

A major challenge is how to deal with people who do not want other passengers to know the locations of their homes, or customers who want to avoid sharing a taxi with people of the opposite sex.