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Business

Toyota giving Thai park-and-rides a try

BANGKOK -- Toyota Motor will offer park-and-ride facilities on an experimental basis in Thailand, aiming to buoy new-car sales here through the seemingly counterintuitive means of getting people to drive less.

     Commuters to and from work will pay for access to lots near train stations on the outskirts of Bangkok to ease traffic congestion. The growth in Southeast Asia's new-car market has outpaced infrastructure construction, worsening traffic congestion in big cities and threatening sales by such automakers as Toyota.

     Nippon Parking Development, which operates parking lots in Thailand, will join in the project. The operation will get off to a full start in September at a total cost of roughly 400 million yen ($3.27 million). The companies will enter into agreements with commercial buildings to acquire parking spaces for 2,500 vehicles. People who would otherwise drive all the way to and from work will park for up to 2,000 baht ($56.64) a month. The lots will be around 10 train stations away from Siam BTS Station in central Bangkok.

     Toyota will dangle perks like 500-baht gift certificates to lure customers. It says that even though the commuters will pay for train tickets, using the park-and-rides will still cost around 40% less than driving, thanks to savings on gasoline and expensive parking fees in the city.

     Toyota will continue the pilot program until the end of 2016. The automaker will consider making the project a full-fledged business as it confirms the contribution to reducing traffic congestion.

     Other Japanese companies have jumped in to help allay Thailand's traffic woes. Sumitomo Electric Industries announced Monday the installation of vehicle sensors at six intersections to analyze traffic congestion and provide the Thai government with data on ways to most efficiently change traffic signals. And since 2012, Toyota group trading company Toyota Tsusho has installed GPS devices on around 10,000 taxis, analyzed congestion data, and provided smartphones with traffic information on maps.

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