Kyoto Prefectural Office

Our first excursion today was to the Kyoto Prefectural Office. This visit consisted of mainly two parts. First, a presentation was given followed by a short discussion. Second, a weir was visited. This visit report is about the first part. 
There were two presentations given by the Prefectural Government. Both recognized a huge problem Japan is dealing with: deep population. With the help of a translator, one director explained how Asset Management has helped to tackle major infrastructural problems. The prefecture Kyoto owns 2200 bridges with more than 50 percent of those built at least 50 years ago. Due to financial reasons as well as a shortage of engineers, Kyoto had to come with a solution to conquer the deterioration of the bridges. In 2012, after a ceiling of a tunnel fell down and 9 people died, a plan was proposed for longlife infrastructure projects. This plan mainly involves the image of the maintenance cycle, where preventive measures increase the total life span and decrease the total costs by approximately 20 percent. We recognize this method as the “Plan, Do, Act, Check” method. He noted that an advanced step is required to ensure the infrastructure project is passed down to next generations, which they call management. Furthermore, an association has been established to increase the awareness of Asset Management. 
The second presentation is given by the director of Transportation and Traffic Division at the Kyoto Prefectural Government. He states the importance of public transport in the Kyoto Prefecture. The prefecture has a diverse population area, where the Kyoto City is very populated and the Northern and Central area are depopulated. The director describes how the prefecture has to deal with five main challenges. The first challenge consists of the development of high speed railway networks, which are very important for the city. The shinkansen lines are financed by three parties: national government, local government and the JR (Japanese Railway), who operates the shinkansen and receives the user fees. Secondly, the Kyoto Prefecture tries to develop a railway network to ensure balanced regional development. The main challenge to overcome is the financial resource for the project as the benefits against the costs are very small. In other words, the profitability is not secure. The same goes for another challenge, where old lines were restructured to a separate infrastructure system. However, it needs support for the project to work. This also applies for bus services in local areas. Although busses are indispensable in these areas, it is difficult to keep operating bus services in rural areas. Subsidies were needed as support and various promotions are spread around the area. Lastly, the prefecture investigates new types of transportations, such as demand-responsive transport. 
As many students focus are part of the traffic department, it was interesting to know how a big Japanese government agency deals with public transport. We discussed the opportunity of self driving cars as a transportation service, which could potentially be big in the future. However, the Kyoto Prefectural thinks that theg still have a long way to go on many aspects. Not only technically, but it also has to deal with legislation and insurance issues. In addition, the results will be discussed in the micro study Public transport in high density cities.