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 in Tokyo, Kansai and Fukuoka areas. It is a barrier-free train station tax if you will, added to regular adult fare and commuter passes but generally not child fares or school commuter passes. The barrier-free tax will cover station infrastructure costs for adding platform doors, elevators, etc., to the designated metropolitan area stations.
From 2023-03-18 most railway companies in the Tokyo area, both JR East and non-JR, raised transit fares to pay this barrier-free station tax. Here is the breakdown for the Greater Tokyo area focusing on JR East.
A ¥10 fare increase for paper tickets and regular Suica/Transit IC cards In the JR East designated barrier-free tax zone. Suica Commute Plan increases within the same tax zone are listed below. The overall average fare increase is 1.4%.
Non-JR East Tokyo area railway companies are raising regular fares by ¥10 but commuter passes are a different story.
While barrier-free stations are good thing and not a big tax to pay for all that new infrastructure, the timing could not be worse. Living costs are rising across the board, little increases add up, eating into salaries that are not rising much, if at all. Each transfer on a multiple transit line routes now has increased fare with each transit operator section. For example: my work commute uses JR East and Tokyu lines, the old fare was ¥419, new fare is ¥457.
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 are valid when used outside the designated peak time of the commute plan entry station. If you enter the start point station during peak time, your Suica Off-Peak commute pass is ignored and Suica balance is used to pay fare.
In real world use it simply means if you have an Suica Off-Peak Commuter Pass, don’t enter your start station during the station designed morning ‘Peak Time’ on work days. If you do the commuter pass doesn’t work. Any time outside of ‘Peak Time’ you are good to do. This is much better than the convoluted, often confusing Suica Off-Peak JRE POINT Campaign that ends March 31.
Apple Pay Suica users can purchase 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.
I migrated to an Off-Peak on March 18 and posted a video showing the cancellation~refund of a regular pass, and purchase of a new Off-Peak pass.
The situation for PASMO private rail and other non-JR East rail operators is varied:
Keio and Keikyu are raising fares later this year in October.
Regular adult fares are up ¥10 in line with JR East, some have also raised child fares by ¥10. Commuter passes are generally being raised more, and there are no off-peak commuter passes. Kansai area transit operators are raising fares on April 1, Fukuoka on March 27. Be sure to check how the fare and commuter pass increases apply to your local commute situation.
I have update the Apple Pay Suica • PASMO Commute Plan Guide with Suica Off-Peak Commute Plan details.
Related: How much does Suica Off-Peak Commuter Pass really save you?
Published 2023-01-15, Updated 2023-03-24
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