The number of users are still very less
Despite a pre-paid card system in place there are only a few that use it. Most complained that paying via cash everyday is difficult and also expensive.
The Bhutanese has followed this particular issue for a very long time and in the process talked to people about friendly transportation system in the country which is convenient and cheap.
This paper learnt that most of the public (students as well) now prefer bus services, but always carrying cash was not possible.
Most of the people are not aware of the pre-paid card system in Bhutan which will soon become more advanced, as Bhutan Post has plans for it.
“A maximum of 40% concession is provided to student commuters. There are seats divided for the physically challenged, senior citizens and the ordinary people,” said Pasang Tshering, City Bus Manager. He also added that the pre-paid cards can be renewed according to convenience- daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Bhutan Post has so far issued 170 pre-paid cards.
“People are not aware of pre-paid system as they always pay in cash. ,” said Sangay Tshewang, 22 a bus conductor for the last three months.
Bhutan Post will bring some advanced changes for buses in the form of ‘SMART cards’ that can be swiped in the machine pinned inside the bus. “Commuters just need to show the card in a contactless machine,” said Pasang Tshering.
In neighboring countries like India and Thailand, the bus services are very convenient because the fares are all based on a one-time payment for tickets that lasts a month, most other countries have a similar system.
Most people who are aware of such systems in public transportations are asking for the ‘pass system’ so that they don’t need to pay on a daily basis.
“People are not really aware of pass-system, we need to address it as ‘pre-paid card system,” said the city bus manager. The system is already in place, people need to come to us to register.
In Thailand, senior citizens above 65 don’t have to pay for public transportations and students get discounts on the one-time payment ticket at the start of the month.
The fact is confirmed by Akane Suga, A Japanese who has been working with Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). He said “In Japan public transportation is very convenient for senior citizens as they don’t have to pay for tickets by showing their cards and students get discounts in bus tickets and one-payment coupons.”
“I don’t always have bus fares and sometimes end up fighting with the conductor or waiting for a lift on the highway which we don’t get these days,” said Dorji, 18, a student living in Taba.
“I have to pay Nu 15 every morning and evening and it sums up to half my salary at the end of the month and I have nothing to save and give to my parents and siblings,” said Tshewang, 23 a regular commuter to Babesa. He said living in Thimphu has ‘become very expensive’ and he wishes for a transport price he can afford.
In best practices outside Bhutan, every bus service is an issue of interest that directly reflects ‘public welfare’.
Meanwhile, the bus service is networked in all areas of Thimphu.
Our Transport System issues different types of ‘passes’ to cater to the different sections of the society according to their needs. There are senior citizens concessional monthly commuter passes, student passes and many more that we have to pay once a month or once a year, one-time payment system in very convenient,” said Krishnan Naik, a Teacher. He also added that there is ‘daily’ ‘monthly’ and ‘free’ passes.
Meanwhile, Bhutan Post is planning to get passes called ‘SMART cards’ which can be just displayed to a machine that will be pinned inside the bus and the bus fare will be automatically updated.
There are two types of such machines, one that needs to be swiped and the other can be just displayed called, contact and contactless, respectively. Bhutan Post will be bringing in the contactless card machines.
“It is a relief and a development for traffic congestion” said the City Bus Manager. He said the SMART cards can be used by office-goers, students and many others, taking them away from personalized modes of travel that negatively contributes to environment hazard which could contribute towards a hassle-free traffic congestion.
Puran Gurung / Thimphu