The ¥10 barrier-free station tax

The railway station barrier-free fee system is “a Japanese railway fare system established with the aim of promoting barrier-free railway stations in urban areas” by leveraging a fee on urban railway users. A barrier-free station tax, if you will.

From 2023-03-18 most railway companies in Japan, both JR Group and non-JR, will be raising transit fares in urban areas to pay this barrier-free station tax. Here is the breakdown for the Greater Tokyo area focusing on JR East.

In the JR East designated barrier-free tax zone there is a ¥10 fare increase for paper tickets and regular Suica/Transit IC cards. Suica Commute Plan increases within the same tax zone are listed below. The overall average fare increase is 1.4%.

While barrier-free stations are good thing and not a big tax to pay for all that new infrastucture, the timing is bad. With living costs rising across the board, these little increases add up. To help ease the pain, JR East is offering Off-Peak Suica Commuter Passes (plastic)/Commute Plans (Mobile Suica), that offer a 10% discount with the following condition: Off-Peak passes can only be used outside the designated peak time of the commute plan entry station, otherwise your Suica will be charged at the regular IC fare rate. Suica Off-Peak Commuter Passes basically replace the convoluted Suica Off-Peak JRE POINT Campaign that ends March 31.

Apple Pay Suica users will be able to buy Off-Peak commute plans in an upcoming version of Suica App (v5.2.1), but you must purchase a new pass. Regular commute plans can only be renewed as regular commute plans, they cannot be migrated to off-peak plans. School commute plans and passes will not be charged the barrier-free tax which is good news. Another bonus: high school and jr. high school students can add and use Mobile Suica school commute plans staring March 18.

The situation for PASMO private rail and other non-JR East rail operators is varied. Keio and Toei Subway have not announced fare increases while Seibu, Tokyu, Tobu, Sotetsu, Odakyu, Tokyo Metro are all raising fares and commuter passes similar to JR East but there are differences. And there are no off-peak commuter passes. Be sure to check how fare increases apply to your commute situation.

I will update the Apple Pay Suica • PASMO Commute Plan Guide with Suica Off-Peak commute plan options in early February.