SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Servicemembers and others who lack both cash and a car, or who have no business driving one, can turn to the Sasebo Chief Petty Officers’ Association’s “Ride Now, Pay Later” program starting Friday evening.

The CPOA and the local Japanese Taxi Association signed a contract Tuesday to guarantee taxi fares for such people, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Oscar Mercado, CPOA president.

“If a sailor, or any SOFA-sponsored person, is out in town and out of money and needs to catch a ride to housing, main base or Hario,” he said, “the taxi drivers will have a guarantee that somebody will pay for the cab through the Sasebo CPOA.”

Here’s how it will work: The passenger will be asked to fill out a small form with personal and command information, which the driver will take to the Security Department. The next day, the CPOA will contact the individual’s command or sponsor to recoup the taxi fare. The drivers are to note the ID card number of the person who could not pay and fax the ticket to base security; fares owed will be paid to each company at the end of every month.

“All the city taxi companies are involved,” Mercado said. “However, if you use one of the taxis without a base sticker, they can only drop you as far as the gates.”

Sasebo’s King Taxi Company’s fleet can drive on the base, and a few taxis from other companies have base-access stickers, a Sasebo Safety Office official said Wednesday.

Mercado said the CPOA wanted the taxi agreement to ensure SOFA-sponsored personnel can get home safely, especially if inebriated.

“We don’t want drunken sailors driving around out in town and getting in trouble, or getting hurt on the way back because they didn’t have any money and decided to walk,” Mercado said.

“You can’t take the alcohol away from the sailors; when they go outside the gate, that’s the first thing on their minds. ‘I’m going to go out and get some drinks … two drinks.’ Then after two drinks, they get more, and more. Then they realize they don’t have any money left,” he said.

“I think this is a good idea,” said Toshifumi Imazato of Sasebo Haitaku Kyodo Corp., which is making the forms to be given to taxi drivers. “I heard from taxi drivers that there had been trouble” when sailors were drunk and lacked the taxi fare or their ID card, he said, adding he hopes this will decrease the number of troublesome incidents.

Imazato said Wednesday that the tickets will be distributed to the drivers “around Friday evening.”

Mercado said, “I think we will probably lose some money doing this but the CPOA decided this is something we want to do for the community. Losing a little money is OK.”

Call Mercado at DSN 252-3381 for more information about Ride Now, Pay Later.

Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

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