The city of Ishikari in Hokkaido has started experimenting with an on-demand transportation service called “Itsumo” (Japanese for “always”). This service allows passengers to make a reservation using a smartphone.
Ishikari, which is located slightly to the north of Sapporo, is an important logistics point with approximately 3,000 hectares of industrial parks in the area surrounding the port. Over 700 companies are located in the Ishikari Bay New Port Area, where approximately 20,000 people work each day. In recent years, companies have also been actively invited to relocate here as a location for renewable energy, but transportation in the region is limited to personal vehicles and shuttle buses. This has created a challenge in terms of introducing public transport that aligns with demand from commuters.
Also, with an aging population, the number of households in Ishikari without driver’s licenses has increased, creating the need for an individualized transportation service to meet the demand for shopping trips.
To respond to the need for transport both for commuting to work and for everyday life, Ishikari began to discuss new public transportation options around 2018. Then, starting in October 2022, the city started experimenting with on-demand transportation. “Ishikari became a pioneering Japanese municipality in this respect,” said Norikazu Ebata, chief of transport affairs for Ishikari.
During the trial period, payment was available through both a credit card option within the smartphone application and via cash payment. To keep up with the influx of commuters, Ishikari needed a trusted payments partner that was reliable and able to keep up with the surging demand.
To collect payments and reserve rides, Itsumo uses Moovit, a transportation app used in more than 112 countries worldwide. When looking up routes to a destination using Moovit, passengers can find routes that combine existing transportation systems with on-demand transportation. Reservations can then be made on the spot using a credit card registered with the app. The payment is processed when the passenger actually makes use of the on-demand transportation on the day of the reservation.
After some debate about whether to use a foreign service or some other option, Ishikari City decided that having a sustainable, easy-to-implement solution was the way to go.
Stripe was selected as the payment partner because of its global track record and reputation.
“Moovit and Stripe have a track record of success all over the world and, after looking at the problem from the point of view of quickly getting something up and running, we knew they were the right partners to help us launch the service,” said Kenichi Uwakubo, the manager of transport affairs for Ishikari’s planning division.
“By partnering with Stripe, Moovit has been able to provide services in many different countries," said Hadrien Boixel, Japan country manager at Moovit. “We know that Stripe payments operate really well and that Stripe also has the know-how to incorporate payments into the app. So naturally we chose to use Stripe for credit card payments for this project, which is our first time providing our services within Japan.”
With Stripe, the city of Ishikari has found a payment partner that is able to withstand a demanding volume of passengers and has received positive feedback from transit goers.
“We’ve received exceptionally positive reactions from many companies regarding our pioneering implementation of on-demand transport for commuting, and we’ve also been able to offer a new method of moving around within the city itself,” said Kamikubo.
Ultimately, the city’s long term goal is to make urban transportation in Japan more comfortable and convenient. To do this, the city has plans to add new payment options, making it even easier for passengers to make the most of their travel. “Going forward, as we introduce fixed period subscriptions, discount plans, and coupons, Stripe will be able to easily support those functions as well. We are very thankful that Stripe is here to support us in terms of payment technology,” said Boixel.
Additionally, Marubeni, a major trading company which provides the system for this project, hopes to expand its contributions to Japanese communities.
“Moovit not only offers an on-demand transportation service, but it also allows us to improve transportation planning within the area through the collection and analysis of movement data. Starting from Itsumo, we’d like to propose a new vision for public transportation,” said Ken Asakura, an assistant manager for Marubeni’s mobility business department.
We’ve received exceptionally positive reactions from many companies regarding our pioneering implementation of on-demand transport for commuting. We’ve been able to offer a new method of moving around within the city itself.