…𝒘𝒆 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒅𝒍𝒚 𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒏 𝑵𝒖. 1000 𝒑𝒆𝒓 𝒅𝒂𝒚 𝒃𝒚 𝒅𝒓𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒂𝒙𝒊 𝒔𝒂𝒚𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒕𝒂𝒙𝒊 𝒅𝒓𝒊𝒗𝒆𝒓
The city bus picks up the majority of passengers in Thimphu, while other half are travelling abroad, says the Taxi driver in Thimphu.0
Karma, taxi driver in Thimphu said “I have been a taxi driver for more than 7 years. Thimphu was an ideal location to operate taxi service, given the population. I was living comfortably as a cab driver but now that there are frequent city bus services, half of our customers avail bus service. In addition, so many people are traveling abroad that it can seldom find passengers like before”.
There are 2750 recorded taxi under Bhutan Taxi Association (BTA) till date according to Tshering Penjor, Executive Director, BTA.
Kinley Om, Cab driver said, “We have to drive around the town looking for passengers from morning till evening, using up a lot of oil while picking up very few people. However, there are a lot of demands for the cabs at the peak hour and occasion such as on auspicious days and nights of weekends.”
Dechen Dorji said “It is a choice of passengers to take taxi or a bus. However, there are still some people who only travel by taxi. I used to have loyal and reliable customers who would phone us whenever they needed to travel or commute. They recently traveled to Australia and it has been a big blow to my business.”
Yoezer also added, “In the past, if we worked all month, we could earn at least Nu. 2000 in a day, which makes Nu. 60,000 in a month. With this earning, we could cover car maintenance, loan, daily fuel costs and family expenditures”.
He continued, “These days, we can hardly earn Nu. 1,500 a day due to city bus service and Bhutanese leaving abroad. It’s been really difficult making ends meet.”
One of the cab drivers in Phuntsholing said, “I was a teacher earlier, but I left my position because of the financial crisis and started working as a cab driver. Thinking that I could make more money than some government employees, it was the most lucrative enterprise to venture into at that time. But over the past few months, I have come to realise that I rarely get a passenger. I believe this is the case since more Bhutanese are leaving for foreign countries “.
I think most of the business would run out of passengers and customers if Bhutanese kept traveling abroad, he continued.
Since, there are so many taxis, getting a passenger completely depends on how cabbies communicate, according to Rinchen Wangpo, a taxi driver. “Some don’t get a single passenger in a day, while others, never fall short of one.”
Taxi drivers from almost all other dzongkhags shared similar stories despite city bus services not being available in their dzongkhags. They have been witnessing people migrating to towns seeking jobs and better opportunities. The recent trend of Bhutanese leaving abroad looking for greener pastures has not spared their dzongkhags too. These taxi drivers are also finding more difficulties to operate their businesses as the days go by. Many of them think it’s because Bhutanese are moving abroad.
A taxi driver from Wangdi Phodrang said, “Before, it was lot simpler because we could make at least Nu. 1,000 a day, but now it’s hard to make even Nu. 300 a day. We occasionally or never managed to get passengers sometimes”.
Tshewang Dorji, Chairman of the Trashigang Taxi Association said, “The business has not been successful enough since the Covid 19. Since, so many people are traveling abroad and the majority of people in Trashigang own private vehicles, we are experiencing a passenger scarcity. We always have to compete with private vehicles”.
However, Gelephu reported positive stories of cabbies. They said that they are doing well this winter season. They even claimed that after the relaxation of covid protocols their business has been steadily picking up.
Gelephu Taxi Association Chairman Naykor remarked, “While I can’t speak for others, the taxi industry in Gelephu is booming. Perhaps the increased demand for taxis is a result of the winter break. In Gelephu, there are 375 taxis, and they are faring well “.
The BTA Executive Director said, “With introduction of city bus services in Thimphu and Phuntsholing, the taxi drivers from these two towns had the most complaints for losing their passengers to city buses. Prior to the introduction of city bus services, there used to be hardly any complaints because they could sustain comfortably. Now, cab drivers are always griping that city buses are stealing all of their customers and to augment the matter, the increasing numbers of Bhutanese leaving the country has put more pressure the business.”
Meanwhile, most commuters concurred that city buses are cheaper than taxis. One commuter said that because there are so many city buses and they travel many different routes covering the city, they are both convenient and affordable.
Another commuter who commutes from Babesa to her work place at Motithang said, “I feel convenient to work late and take city bus because the city bus schedule has been extended till 12 am. I feel much safer traveling by city bus at night than take cab because city buses are equipped with CCTV cameras and there would be other passengers accompanying us too”.