Cabbies complain about late-night operation of city buses hampering their business

However, the Director of City Bus Service says that they are further planning to extend the operation of bus timing as per the need of the people

With city buses of the Thimphu Thromde operating till 10:30 p.m., many cab drivers say their businesses have been hampered even more now that the market is saturated.

“The business was already down and we are incurring losses,” said Karma, a cab driver. “The gasoline price spike and now the operation of late-night city buses have further aggravated the problem.”

Before the late-night operation of city buses, cabbies say they could easily earn Nu 5,000 to  Nu 7,000 per week, especially on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday when there are more people going out and staying late in the town.

“But t now, we cannot even make half of that with many people preferring to travel by buses due to the low fares,” a cabbie said.

Meanwhile, the Thimphu Thromde announced on April 4 that the city bus schedule has been extended from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

While the government claims that the private sector is an enabler of economic growth and is looking into the welfare of the taxi drivers, by even helping them obtain electric vehicles, a taxi driver, Pema Norbu said the government is harming taxi drivers’ businesses.

“It is good news for low-income people, but the real issue is that it is hurting our business because they have decided to run the buses during peak hours,” he added.

This year, the Thromde added 27 new buses with upgraded features such as a computerized ticketing system and smartphone application.

Though taxi drivers recognize the advantages of more city buses, many are anxious that they may lose their source of revenue.

“The number of cabs on the road has been steadily rising. The business prognosis appears to be bleak, especially with more buses on the road,” said another cab driver.

He added that the late-night operation of city buses has left many drivers in a quandary over whether or not to continue driving cabs for a living.

According to the drivers, the Thromde started running buses till late at night when they know that this is when taxi drivers can make the most money.

Currently, there are five city buses deployed to operate till 10:30 p.m. by the Thromde.

According to the Director of the City Bus Service, the decision to operate city buses at night was made to help individuals who are struggling and can’t afford to take taxis home after work.

“The operation of the buses till late night will help those people who are low-income earners and have to stay late at night at work, for instance, sales girls and people working in the restaurants,” he said.

He added that a taxi charges around Nu 300 to Nu 400 at night and it would not be possible for these people to pay that much amount daily to go home.

According to the Director, they receive daily updates on the number of people traveling during the 10:30 p.m. scheduled time.

“By looking at the number of passengers, we feel that the late-night extension of the bus timing has benefited many people. Currently, the interval between the next scheduled buses is one hour. However, looking at the public needs, we are planning to extend the service,” he said.

“It may even be operated 24 hours and the interval between the bus schedules will also be reduced to 30 minutes so that the public does not have to wait,” he added. 

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu