Photo/IllutrationA trial boat commuting service will link the Nihonbashi and Harumi districts in Tokyo. (Provided by the Tokyo metropolitan government)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Fast-forward to the Tokyo Olympics next summer, and imagine yourself stuck in traffic, asking, why didn't I just take a boat?

The Tokyo metropolitan government is making such an option a reality by offering a morning boat commuting service on a trial basis to see if it will ease congestion on trains and roads during the Games.

Officials will decide whether to introduce the service on a full scale after surveying passengers about comfort, prices and other factors.

"Boat transportation here dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867),” said Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike at a news conference. "I hope the service will allow people to see firsthand the appeal of Tokyo's waterfront, while giving boats a chance to make a comeback as an old yet new means of transportation."

The trial service will be offered for free on eight weekdays between July 24 and Aug. 2, linking the Nihonbashi and Harumi districts in 15-minute intervals from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Boat navigation requires about 30 to 40 minutes along the route, compared with 20 to 30 minutes by train.

A single boat can accommodate about 40 seated passengers.

"We'll provide a new commuting style free of congestion," said a metropolitan government official, comparing the reservation-based boat service and the capital’s notoriously crowded trains.

Reservations must be made in advance on the Suitown Tokyo cruise booking website and elsewhere.

It has yet to be decided how much passengers will pay when a full-fledged service is introduced, but fees could be higher than conventional transport means because boats can carry a limited number of passengers.

A train ride costs 269 yen ($2.51) to connect Nihonbashi and Harumi using travel passes, while the bus costs about 206 yen, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The boat service will be provided by eight private companies.

The metropolitan government has been involved in efforts to revitalize water transportation since fiscal 2016. It conducted experiments for five months in fiscal 2016 and throughout fiscal 2017 with an eye toward opening new navigation routes.