City bus services has become the saviour for most people, especially the economically deprived
With about 16,000 people from different walks of life using the City Bus Services daily, the trend of people using public transport has increased. However, this is just the beginning of a new phase in public service delivery and in the words of Pasang Tshering, Manager for operations and maintenance of City Bus Services, a small yet steady step to ensure that people who do not have their own cars and others can be assured that travelling within the city is not a problem at all. Similarly, people using the bus say that if not for the bus service, whatever earned would land in the hands of cab drivers and landlords.
Further, people working late night in restaurants, karoaokes, bars and other business establishments late, can now heave a sigh of relief. Beginning October 19, 2022, City Bus Services has extended its Night Service hours till 11:30PM.
Karma, working in a restaurant says it will help him and others a lot. “There are some operators who provide service of taxi fares, but most do not. And at nigh taxis charge double the cost due to which I walk till Babesa every night,” he said, adding the City Bus services at night will benefit a lot. “I cannot express how happy I and my friends are,” he said.
However, the bus service has been helping people from different rungs of life.
“The fares are cheap. I pay just Nu 5 and an additional Nu 1 for every stop. Moreover, as a student, I get a discount of 30 percent,” Jigme, a student from Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School, who comes all the way from Taba says. “I just cannot afford taxi fares that range from Nu 50 to even Nu 120, sometimes,” he added.
Tshering, who takes the bus from Dechhencholing every day to the city has the same to say. “I have a smart card which I renew upon expiry and the city bus services are of immense benefit to us,” she said. Working for a private company in the capital, Tshering added that she has to live away from town due to high rentals. “And if not for the city bus, I would land up paying everything I earn to taxis,” she added.
Additionally, people do not need to wait long for a bus to arrive. “Within the main Ngagiphu to Dangrina lane, one bus arrives every 8 minutes. And in the other subsidiary lanes, in 15 minutes, a bus will arrive,” Pasang Tshering explained, adding 20 percent discounts are provided to persons with disabilities and 10% percent to senior citizens and regular commuters, and 30 percent to students.
Safety is another issue that has been accorder top priority. “Since 1999 till date, there has been no major accidents and causalities and we check our buses regularly,” Pasang explained.
Going Green is another goal. “A contract for one number electric bus with 2 fast chargers and 1 30 KW charger through UNIDO – was signed on July, 9 2022. It will arrive in January 2023,”Pasang, said.
However, there are challenges confronted too, especially in advocating the general public on the advantages of using buses. Pasang also says that the target is not just the common people who earn less. “We are also targeting others, who use their personal cars,” he said.
Other issues are lack of co-ordination between relevant stakeholders; space constraint; priority lane; bus bays, bus stops and access to bus stops and bus shelters; awareness and advocacy and budget constraint.
“According to the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) there are 67,485 vehicles of all types and I think all vehicles move at least once a day. Look at the traffic jams and think about pollution. If people, begin using buses like people do abroad, Thimphu will become a much more beautiful city,” Sonam Wangchuk, a regular bus commuter said. “I have a car but what use is it to drive to the office, add to the traffic jams and pollution and park it the entire day there,” he said.
Sonam added that leaders, should set examples. “I am not mentioning out top-leaders, but others like, chiefs etc. Once they reach office, the office vehicle is there to take them around if required. So, they can use the bus,” he added.
Meanwhile Thimphu City Bus Services is conducting all activities based on need. “We will increase the number of buses based on usage,” Pasang underlined.
City bus was started in 1999 by the Thimphu Municipal Corporation with 4 buses and it was then under Bhutan Post. It is today a state owned enterprise (SoE) under Thimphu Thromde.
Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu