YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Base officials hope a smaller ride for the Kanto Express produces big savings in the face of increasing fuel costs.

The 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron, which operates Yokota’s on-base shuttle, has switched to a 16-passenger minibus, moving away from the larger version that resembled an American school bus and could seat up to 44 people. The change was made last month.

“The president directed in September … that all federal government agencies take immediate steps to conserve energy and, in particular, fuel,” said Maj. Doug Dickerson, the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s acting commander. “At Yokota, right-sizing the Kanto Express was one of the immediate steps that (we) undertook.”

The swap will save Yokota up to $21,000 a year in fuel costs, officials said.

However, it also may mean fewer space-available seats at peak travel times, said 1st Lt. Michael Morris, the squadron’s vehicle operations officer. Duty passengers are given top priority.

“Space-A personnel can continue to utilize the service,” he said, “but Space-A personnel may encounter a wait time for an additional bus if the smaller bus is filled with duty passengers and there are no seats available.”

There won’t be a decrease in the number of buses on the route, he added.

“There are still two buses running on weekdays, no change in service,” Morris said. “It has a smaller passenger capacity, but it’s much more economical.

On weekends and holidays, there is only one bus running per hour.

Even if gas prices slip in the coming months, officials have no plans to put the larger bus back on the road, he added.

Bus to make stop at Hardy Barracks

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Beginning Monday, Yokota residents can add Hardy Barracks as a stop on the free bus service offered daily between the base and the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo.

Due to space limitations at the New Sanno, Hardy had been used only to park the bus for a return trip to Yokota.

“We were parking it there anyway,” said 374th Services Division director Robyn Sleeth. “There was a demand to allow passengers so we answered it. You asked, we listened, here it is.”

The Army’s Hardy Barracks, about a 20-minute walk from the New Sanno, is a lodging alternative for many customers unable to get a room at the Navy hotel, which usually requires reservations well in advance. The Hardy compound also includes the Asakasa Press Center, Pacific headquarters of Stars and Stripes, a helipad and a Navy Exchange store.

The bus, available seven days a week to status of forces agreement personnel only, departs from Yokota’s Kanto Lodge at 9:30 a.m. and arrives at the New Sanno about two hours later, depending on traffic. According to the new schedule, it now will drop people off at Hardy Barracks just before noon.

Boarding for the return trip is set for 1 p.m. and the bus leaves Hardy Barracks at 1:10 p.m. After picking up passengers at the New Sanno, it’s scheduled to depart Tokyo at 1:30 p.m. and reach Yokota about two hours later.

Riders must show identification cards and seating is first-come, first-served.

— Vince Little

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up