…𝒕𝒂𝒙𝒊 𝒅𝒓𝒊𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒗𝒐𝒊𝒄𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒄𝒆𝒓𝒏𝒔 𝒂𝒃𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒑𝒖𝒃𝒍𝒊𝒄 𝒃𝒖𝒔 𝒔𝒆𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒍𝒊𝒎𝒊𝒕𝒔, 𝑩𝑪𝑻𝑨 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒅𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒅𝒆𝒔𝒊𝒈𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒄𝒂𝒑𝒂𝒄𝒊𝒕𝒚
Amidst the competitive urban landscape, a group of taxi drivers is raising concerns about passenger seating limits for public buses. As the city’s pace quickens during rush hours, the scene unfolds with public buses filled with passengers. This prompts these drivers to question whether the passenger load is stretching beyond permissible capacity.
According to a taxi driver, it’s a common sight to witness passengers hurriedly boarding buses, especially on routes like Babesa, Dechencholing, and Lungtenphu. Karma Yoezer, one of the taxi drivers, said, “This frequent rush often results in buses becoming overloaded or jam-packed with passengers. Surprisingly, the bus drivers themselves seldom intervene and allow passengers to board without any restrictions on the number of passengers. In certain instances, passengers lean towards the bus doors to create space, posing a clear safety hazard. Despite the evident presence of extra passengers on these buses, both the Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority (BCTA) appear to turn a blind eye to the situation.”
He further mentioned, “The bus is frequently swarmed by people in a rush, leading to a decrease in the number of passengers for us.”
Another driver, speaking anonymously, expressed, “Our concern isn’t rooted in envy but rather in the principle that uniform traffic regulations should be upheld by all. While we are penalized for even a single additional passenger, the double standard is evident when buses carrying far more than the allowed numbers of passengers go unchecked.”
In response, one of the bus drivers commented, “Passengers are always in a hurry. As soon as we halt the bus, there’s already a swarm of passengers ready to board. We can’t even manage to utter a word before they start boarding the bus. It’s a challenge for those already on the bus to disembark. Even if we attempt to request some to wait, there’s no clear regard to our instructions. It seems like nobody pays heed.”
Similarly, another bus driver said, “Even when we accommodate passengers beyond the stipulated capacity, we make it a priority to drive cautiously and steadily, guaranteeing the safety of everyone en route to their destinations. Moreover, a majority of passengers vouch for the convenience and enhanced safety of commuting through the city bus.”
However, an official from the Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority (BCTA) clarified the claim, “Every vehicle adheres to a designated seating capacity. However, in alignment with the principles of the sustainable transport board, priority is accorded to passenger buses. This strategic approach aims to mitigate congestion and discourage private transportation. Hence, passenger buses are endowed with an augmented capacity. These buses are equipped with a standard configuration of 30 seats, including the driver, supplemented by an additional 20 standby seats.”
Clarifying further, he said, “It is important to recognize that the perceived disparity in passenger numbers for taxis is a consequence of market dynamics and competition. The taxi industry functions within a competitive market framework, necessitating drivers to vie for passengers. Importantly, the choice to opt for bus travel rests with individuals, considering its trifecta of attributes: convenience, dependability, and affordability, which collectively shape a compelling option.”
Likewise, Passang Tshering, the Director of the city bus service, expanded on the matter, stating, “Our operational protocol strictly adheres to designated passenger capacities, with no allowances for surpassing these limits. Instances of excess occupancy are met with a fine of Nu. 1000 per person, a measure that is rigorously enforced through vigilant oversight. It is worth noting that the perception of heightened passenger count arises due to the availability of standing seats within the bus.”
Recognizing the challenges posed by seating capacity constraints, he explained, “To address this concern, we have bolstered our fleet with 20 buses.”
Sangay Dema, a daily commuter, shared, “I stay at Taba, and opting for a taxi ride costs me a local fare of Nu. 150, while choosing the shared taxi ride costs Nu. 40, and either way, it’s expensive for me. However, with the bus service, the convenience is undeniable; the bus route is conveniently situated right by my home, allowing me to pay Nu. 25 for the same distance ride.”
Another commuter, Kuenga Lhaden, said, “I don’t observe significant crowding throughout the day but rather exclusively during office hours. The influx of passengers is prominent during the morning and evening office hours. This seems reasonable, considering that everyone is fatigued and keen on reaching home swiftly, all the while keeping costs economical.”
Tshering Penjor, the Executive Director of the Bhutan Taxi Association, stated, “We have received complaints regarding buses carrying more passengers than their allotted capacity, affecting the business of Taxi Drivers. We addressed these concerns by reporting them to BCTA and even talked with the city bus service director, who assured us that they operate within the designated capacity limits. We even conducted inspections to verify this, and it was confirmed that they do not exceed their capacity”. “If public services are functioning efficiently and effectively, we have no grounds for objection. After all, its public choice,” he added.