Photo: Thimphu Thromde

Taxi drivers feel new city buses will impact their income but commuters welcome the buses

Thimphu Thromde added 27 new buses with new and improved features, like the bus computerized ticketing system and a smart phone application, to the City Bus Services (CBS) on Tuesday.

The bus routes have also been extended. The buses go along new bus routes and bus stations that the Thromde’s geographic information system has identified (GIS). Within 10 minutes, a bus is scheduled to arrive at a stop on the trunk or major route from Babesa to Dechencholing. According to the GIS analysis, 168 bus stops and a terminal have been found in North and South Thimphu.

However, there is still more work to be done to ensure that the bus services run smoothly.  The new city buses are temporarily parked at the Thromde’s garage in Babesa due to lack of a bus terminal.

According to Thromde, CBS has a budget of Nu 7 million (mn), of which roughly Nu 3 mn will be used to build eight bus shelters, and the rest will be utilized to build bus terminals and site enhancements.

Thromde will seek an increased budget for infrastructure construction for the CBS in the coming fiscal year.

The new city buses are accessible to those with disabilities, featuring ramps and audio announcements alerting passengers when vehicles arrive at their stops. Despite the fact that the buses have ramps at the bus stops, the ramps do not contact the ground, making it difficult for passengers with disabilities to board.

The new buses were procured at Nu 3.4 mn each. The new buses, while identical to the old ones in appearance, include added conveniences such as air conditioning and built-in voice announcement systems.

Meanwhile, many taxi drivers are unhappy about the increased buses and the routes. Thimphu taxi drivers claim that their business will be hampered now. They claim that the market is already saturated.

On the other hand, many people and students who depend on public transportation are relieved by the improvement in the city bus services.

Though taxi drivers understand the benefits of additional city buses, many are concerned that it would eliminate their source of income

Kinzang, a taxi driver, said: ““My sole source of income is driving a cab, and I’m concerned I won’t be able to feed my children. The number of cabs on the road has been increasing. And with more city buses on the road, the commercial outlook appears to be dismal.”

Some of the taxi drivers that the paper talked to voiced they are in a dilemma to continue or stop driving taxis as they earn hardly enough to make a living.

Sonam Dorji said taxi drivers are becoming frustrated and saddened by the Thromde’s move. Thromde has introduced more buses when there are already enough buses in Thimphu.

“If these buses had been launched in other dzongkhags as well, it would have provided hope to taxi drivers in Thimphu, who are already competing with one another due to the large number of taxis operating in Thimphu. Many taxi drivers, I believe, are going to leave Thimphu or sell their vehicles since there would be no business because people will choose to take the buses,” he added.

Meanwhile, commuters are relieved and pleased that the new buses would save them time and money.

A passenger, Tshering, stated that the buses are far more pleasant to travel in than the previous ones, and that they are transporting passengers in full capacity.

“I used to wait for the bus for at least 20 or 30 minutes before boarding since the seats fill up quickly and the bus carries more passengers than it can accommodate. With the new buses, I no longer have to wait. Instead, when I get at the stop, a bus arrives every 10 minutes. It saves time and money,” he explained.

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