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Spare expands its microtransit operations in Japan with services in Shiojiri and Noshiro

The two on-demand transit configurations will better connect populations in these regional cities to everyday amenities

Kristoffer Vik Hansen

Nov. 1 (Vancouver, Canada) — After the success​ of its KnowRoute microtransit service in Fukuoka, Japan, Spare, the world’s leading provider of on-demand mobility software, is bringing its technology and know-how to two new Japanese cities: Shiojiri, Nagano Prefecture and Noshiro, Akita Prefecture.

The Shiojiri service is KnowRoute’s first expansion outside of Fukuoka Prefecture. Launched in 2019, KnowRoute was initially a proof-of-concept deployed in collaboration with Next Mobility Co., Ltd, a partnership between Nishi Nippon Railroad Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Corporation.

“The people of Fukuoka were quite excited when we launched KnowRoute. Now they can get to where they need to go on their own terms but still using collective transportation,” says Takehiro Fujioka, executive vice-president and corporate strategy officer at Next Mobility.

Shiojiri’s KnowRoute initiative is part of Japan’s Smart Mobility Challenge, a government scheme to encourage regional cities and areas to adopt new types of mobility services.

Like in Fukuoka, the five-zone service is curbside-to-curbside with stops outside special interest points like train stations, grocery stores, hospitals and malls. With no fixed-route transportation in Shiojiri, KnowRoute, which runs on a fleet of three minivans operated by ALPICO, will be particularly useful to suburban residents looking for a way to connect to the city’s amenities.

“Without transit, the residents had to rely on their cars to get around. We want to ensure a useful and efficient future for the city. Delivering easy-to-use on-demand transit alternatives is an important step towards that goal,” Fujioka adds.

In Noshiro, the service will look slightly different than the KnowRoute model. Instead of operating as an on-demand system out of the gate, Spare has enabled fixed-route microtransit. This means that passengers can use the Spare Rider app to book a seat in a pooled vehicle that runs on a fixed timetable along a predetermined route, with stops no more than a 10-minute walk from one another.

Noshiro City plans to evolve the system over time, adding new features and capabilities to make it the best rural transit in the country. For now, they are concentrating however on a rider education campaign.

“Many of our residents are elderly. We wanted to introduce them to the idea of using an app to book transit slowly so they are comfortable with the technology before moving to an on-demand model. Ultimately, we think Spare’s easy-to-use technology will have a positive impact on our ridership and help it to grow,” says Tsutomu Ohtani with Noshiro City's Commerce, Industry and Harbor department.

“At Spare, we care that people get the most benefit from transit, whether that’s on-demand or not. We know that our service in Noshiro will give riders, and in particular the older population, access to important points in the city where they can socialize or obtain services such as healthcare,” adds Spare CEO Kristoffer Vik Hansen.

Interested in how Spare powers different service configurations? Reach out at