Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) is coming up with a new mechanism, Taxi Operating Permit (TOP), to control the number of taxis in congested urban centers, like Thimphu and Phuentsholing. RSTA has records of 3,941 taxis in country including 6 electric vehicle (EV) taxis.
The new rule by RSTA states that there will be no new registration or further addition of taxis entertained in Thimphu and Phuentsholing. Chief Transport Officer, RSTA, Karma Pemba, said that the government decided to suspend the registration of taxis for the time being in Thimphu and Phuentsholing due to an excess of taxis, whereas in some other areas there are no taxis.
“After knowing that the registration has been suspended in these two town areas, there is a high chance that taxis from other dzongkhags might come and operate in these two town areas,” he said. Therefore, RSTA has devised the TOP mechanism to control the number of taxis and monitor that taxi operators stick to their own region of operation.
Karma Pemba said that under the TOP mechanism, taxi operators are allowed to purchase a taxi only after obtaining TOP, and once the car has arrived in country, RSTA will then register and issue the taxi number. The name of the region where the taxi is to operate has to be marked on the body of the taxi in black colour.
The existing approved taxi colours are white and red, which was implemented in the beginning of 2012. However, the old taxis registered prior to 2012 have different colours. “Once they complete their service of nine years and while converting into private registration, they will change the colour,” the Chief Transport Officer said.
As of November 2015, the western region, which includes five districts of Punakha, Wangdue, Paro, Haa, Gasa and Thimphu, has 2,666 taxis. Phuentsholing came in second with 1,033 taxis, Gelephu with 186 and Samdrupjongkhar with 42 followed by Monger with only 14 taxies registered with RSTA.
From 2,666 taxis within the western region, 80 percent of taxis are operated within Thimphu, which might come around 2,000 to 2,500 taxis.
So far, RSTA does not have the exact number of taxis operated in places around the country as taxis are free to drive around everywhere.
However, once TOP mechanism is applied, RSTA will be able to know the exact number of taxis that are operating in designated regions. “This is also the reason for implementing such a mechanism,” Karma Pemba added.
Under TOP, taxis are not permitted to operate outside their designated regions. For instance, a taxi from Phuentsholing can be hired by a passenger to travel to Thimphu, but however, after dropping the passenger in Thimphu, the taxi will not be allowed to operate within the Thimphu region.
“Until date there was no such restriction saying that taxis coming from other region (Phuentsholing) are not allowed to operate in Thimphu, but once TOP is issued they have to follow the new rule,” RSTA added.
RSTA will conduct a series of sensitization programs on TOP. The agency has also extended the deadline to obtain TOP within January 31. Operators of old taxi must obtain TOP, whereas those thinking of purchasing a new taxi have to first apply for TOP.
As for the issues raised by the taxi operators on losing the opportunity to operate in Thimphu and Phuentsholing, the Chief Transport Officer said, “I don’t think suspension in these two areas is permanent, we might have to do other assessments, and if we require more taxis then we might allow few TOP in these two areas.”
Taxi drivers also raised the point that it costs Nu 500 to paint their taxis to conform to the colour code.
“This is a new system, and so far, we have received good cooperation from the taxi operators. We look forward for the same cooperation for the smooth operation of our new system,” Karma Pemba said.
RSTA also pointed out that the taxi operators that do not turn up for the taxi verification have later requested for re-registration because as per the verification notification, if they do not report within a given period then the taxi are to be converted and registered as private vehicles. However, RSTA said such cases have been considered by the ministry since the taxi operators have genuine reasons.