Taxi drivers in the capital facing an acute shortage of passengers

In recent years, taxi drivers in Thimphu are facing a difficult time as a result of a decrease in the number of people residing in the capital city. Taxi drivers are seeing a drastic decrease in the number of local passengers and tourists.

The main cause of the passenger shortage in Thimphu is attributed to many residents leaving abroad for further studies and other purposes. This has resulted in a decrease in demand for taxi services, leaving many taxi drivers struggling to make ends meet.

Many taxi drivers who rely on daily fares to support their families are now finding it increasingly difficult to earn a decent living.

“Back then in 2012, I used to make a net profit of around Nu 6,000 a day, but now, it’s hard to make even half of that,” said Tek Nath, a 38-year-old taxi driver in Thimphu, and he further added, “There are not enough passengers in the city due to a lot of people moving abroad with the hope of a better livelihood, and those who do need a ride prefer the city bus instead of going on a taxi due to the double price of a taxi.”

In the past, many taxi drivers used to make extra income after midnight by carrying passengers from clubs, pubs, and party halls. However, with the migration of youths, this source of income has reduced, leaving taxi drivers in a precarious financial situation.

“I used to make good money driving people home from the clubs and parties late at night, but now I sit in my taxi for hours waiting for a customer,” said Phurpa Dorji, a taxi driver in Thimphu. “It is tough out here. We have to pay for fuel, maintenance, and rent, but we do not have enough passengers as most of the passengers are youngsters visiting clubs and karaoke and now that most of the youths are going abroad to study and make good earnings, it is hard to even cover our basic expenses.”

Apart from people moving abroad, most of the daily commuters prefer to travel by city bus instead of traveling by taxi due to the lower price of City Buses.

While the shortage of passengers has been a major challenge for taxi drivers in Thimphu, however, Kinley, a 30-year-old taxi driver, seems to have found a way around it. He claims that he has not been affected much by the shortage of passengers as he mostly runs his taxi to Paro, where he receives a good number of passengers through phone calls.

 According to Rinzin Chophel, the Chairperson of the Bhutan Taxi Association (BTA), “Apart from the fact of many Bhutanese moving abroad, the full-time taxi drivers are facing difficulties in providing for their families due to the part-time taxi drivers who are usually government employees and other working people who already have a source of income and are driving a taxi as a side hustle.”

He added that there are around 3,900 taxis in Thimphu, out of which 30 percent belong to the government employees and the part-time taxi drivers. He also stated the decline of the tourists in the country has led to the shortage of passengers.

Chophel has proposed measures to the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) for necessary action, to address the issue of shortage of passengers along with the restrictions of taxi cards to those who are government employees and corporation workers. With a proposed segregation of taxis, Chophel hopes that the number of taxis operating in Thimphu will be reduced, allowing for a more sustainable income for the full time taxi drivers.

He suggested that taxis should be allowed to operate based on the dzongkhag ratio, to maintain the number of taxis operating in the country.

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