… 𝒂𝒊𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒆𝒇𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒚 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒖𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒃𝒊𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒚, 𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒎𝒑𝒉𝒖 𝑻𝒉𝒐𝒎𝒅𝒆 𝒖𝒏𝒗𝒆𝒊𝒍𝒔 𝑻𝒉𝒓𝒆𝒆-𝑷𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒆 𝑰𝒏𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒕𝒂𝒄𝒌𝒍𝒆 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒇𝒇𝒊𝒄 𝒘𝒐𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒃𝒐𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒑𝒖𝒃𝒍𝒊𝒄 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒏𝒔𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒕𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏
Krishna Kumar Sanyasi
The introduction of the city bus priority lane marks a significant stride by Thimphu Thomde in promoting public transportation, alleviating traffic congestion, and fostering sustainable transport. Anticipation for the transformative impact of this initiative is high among stakeholders such as Bhutan Construction for Transport Authority, Traffic Division, Thimphu Thromde, and City Bus Service.
The project’s objective is to curtail fuel imports, reduce carbon emissions, and enhance the dependability and efficiency of the city’s bus system. Notably, the priority lane aims to address common concerns about public transport reliability and speed by providing a dedicated lane for city buses, ensuring a more reliable and efficient transportation option.
The initiative, divided into three phases, will initially operate from Babesa Zero to the Changzamtog flyover bridge during peak traffic hours. Outside of designated hours and on weekends, all vehicles can use the priority lane. To ensure widespread awareness and compliance, the city bus office has disseminated a comprehensive flyer outlining the dos and don’ts of the pilot project across various social media platforms.
Additionally, specific vehicles, including ambulances, fire engines, emergency vehicles, police escorts, buses, VVIP cars, foreign diplomats, flagged cars, and vehicles transporting critically ill patients requiring emergency medical attention, are authorized to access the priority lane. Taxis and private vehicles are also permitted to drop off a minimum of two passengers.
Pasang Tshering, the Director of City Bus Service, emphasized, “First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand that this is a pilot project. Public transport plays a pivotal role in addressing transportation challenges, with the current focus on priority lane issues. The implementation of a priority lane prevents vehicles from getting stuck in traffic jams, ensuring a smoother flow. However, if the bus service fails to become efficient and reliable, a surge in the number of small vehicles on the streets is inevitable, leading to delays in reaching destinations on time. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) 2040 study highlights that by 2040, the commute from Chubachu to Babesa could take approximately 2 hours if corrective measures are not taken now.”
He added, “While the focus is on the present, we must also consider the next 20 years. It is imperative to enhance the efficiency of the bus service to alleviate issues such as traffic congestion, which directly impacts timely arrival at workplaces and schools for both employees and students.”
Pasang said, “Currently, the issue may seem minor, but by 2040, it could escalate into a major problem. An efficient and reliable bus service provides an alternative choice. Commuters can opt to leave their vehicles behind and utilize the bus service. Presently, concerns revolve around school openings, a shared worry we also acknowledge. Hence, we are initiating this project now, during a time when schools are closed, allowing bus drivers and the public to familiarize themselves with the system before schools resume. Starting during school openings would lead to chaos, with parents dropping off children causing traffic jams and numerous complications.”
Explaining the phased approach, Pasang stated, “The priority lane is being implemented in three phases: from Babesa to the flyover bridge (Phase 1), from the flyover to the telecom junction (Phase 2), and from the telecom junction to Dechencholing (Phase 3). This phased strategy, termed as a pilot project, allows for flexibility. If unsuccessful, we can revert, but our aim is to ensure success to avoid future problems. The term ‘bus priority lane’ doesn’t restrict it to buses alone; numerous vehicles with more than two passengers can utilize it.”
Pasang further remarked, “Currently, there is a lack of communication among various stakeholders, including the traffic personnel on-site who may not fully understand the concept of a priority lane. It’s essential to clarify that every vehicle in the right lane is entitled to access it. Our objective is to discourage single individuals driving a vehicle, promoting a more sustainable approach.”
Sangay Tempa, a seasoned taxi driver residing in Thimphu with over 12 years of experience, expressed his views on the initiative, stating, “I believe this initiative is highly beneficial for the community. Previously, during peak hours, traffic jams were a common hindrance to emergency vehicles and city buses. With the introduction of this initiative, it will facilitate the smooth flow of emergency vehicles and public buses. Additionally, this initiative aligns with environmental considerations, making it a positive step forward.”
Ravi Rai, an office worker who frequently commutes, shared his perspective: “I used to commute alone from home to the office. However, with this initiative, my colleagues and I have decided to coordinate and travel together in a single car. Given that each of my colleagues has their vehicle, we’ve arranged to take turns driving. This not only aligns with the new initiative but also proves to be a comfortable and cost-effective solution. Moreover, it enables us to utilize the priority lane, ensuring we reach the office on time.”