Tokyo taxi firms are running a service with special features for expecting mothers. Women register for the service and when they go into labour are guaranteed to be picked up by a specially designated taxi, equipped with materials needed for birth and an exemption from a cleaning fee. Hospitals and midwives are contributing to the project by offering training and support to drivers taking part in the scheme, while taxi firms hope the service will secure a new customer base for their product and increase revenue.
Results & Impact
More than 100,000 women have signed up for the service since 2012
Nihon Kotsu, Furosato Kotsu, government hospitals
Pregnant women can sign up to specialised services with several taxi companies, which provide priority pick ups when mothers-to-be go into labour and, later, for doctor's appointments and childcare needs. The service is coordinated with hospitals, recommended by doctors and advised by midwives, and taxis are equipped with waterproof sheets, blankets, towels and manuals for how taxi drivers can best support expecting mothers. The city saves money on ambulances and births outside hospital
Cost & Value
The service is chargeable on the meter with a reservation cost of 410 Y ($3.70)
Running since 2012
Pregnant women in Tokyo can now sign up to a taxi service that’s specially tailored to their needs.
In the north Tokyo Iwate district, local taxi firm Furusato Kotsu worked with midwives and hospitals to put together a specialised maternity service that’s proving wildly popular. Pregnant women pre-register for the service, with information about their family hospital, and when they go into labour just need to call from the same number to ensure a prepared taxi arrives at the door.
To ensure that mothers-to-be are as comfortable as possible on the way, taxis are equipped with special pregnancy packs include waterproof sheets and towels. Drivers have been coached by midwives in the best ways to support mothers-to-be on their journey, while hospitals encourage women to use the services and are preparing a manual for use in the taxis.
One of the particular benefits of the Sankyu service is that women won’t get charged for cleaning of the cars, and Furusato Kotsu urges women to use the service with confidence.
The partnership is an extension of projects that taxi companies in Japan have been experimenting with for some time. A stagnating economy has meant lower revenues for taxi companies in recent years, and to make up the losses they’ve started to target more specific markets. The elderly, families with young children and pregnant women are all groups that might have a more pressing need for private cars than others. Targeting them with extra services and support makes sense from a business perspective.
For the government it’s a useful cost saving device strategy, narrowing demand for ambulances and ensuring that women arrive at the hospital for birth safely.
Services like taking groups of children to school or offering the elderly a ride to a hospital or supermarket – and sometimes even helping them when they’re inside – help create demand during the day, when taxi services are generally used less.
In 2012, popular cab company Nihon Kotsu began providing a dedicated pregnancy service. When it began, organisers say they received several hundred registrations each day and, while the number has now declined, those running the project say up to 40 women continued to register daily.
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