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City Bus Service: A Lifeline for Public Mobility in the Capital

โ€ฆ๐’‡๐’“๐’๐’Ž ๐’”๐’Ž๐’‚๐’“๐’• ๐’„๐’‚๐’“๐’…๐’” ๐’•๐’ ๐’†๐’๐’†๐’„๐’•๐’“๐’Š๐’„ ๐’ƒ๐’–๐’”๐’†๐’”: ๐’†๐’๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’„๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚๐’„๐’„๐’†๐’”๐’”๐’Š๐’ƒ๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’•๐’š, ๐’”๐’–๐’”๐’•๐’‚๐’Š๐’๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’•๐’š, ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’†๐’‡๐’‡๐’Š๐’„๐’Š๐’†๐’๐’„๐’š

Krishna Kumar Sanyasi

Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, serves as a beacon of opportunity and growth, attracting residents from across the nation in search of a better life. The City Bus Service, at the heart of this vibrant city, has a mission to provide an efficient, safe, and reliable transport system for all, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly and persons with disabilities. It plays a crucial role in enhancing accessibility and reducing traffic congestion in Thimphu.

Thimphu Thromde covers an area of over 26 sq km. The capital city is home to 115,000 people, constituting about 40 percent of the urban population of the country.

The fare structure of the City Bus Service in Thimphu is designed to be accessible and affordable for all segments of the population. The base fare is set at Nu. 5, with an additional Nu. 1 for every stop a commuter travels. This system aims to make public transport inclusive and convenient for all residents. Additionally, a ticket system is in place, with slightly higher fares to discourage cash transactions on buses, promoting a more efficient payment process.

Sonam Pelden, a 40-year-old newcomer to Thimphu, shared insights into her experience with the city’s transportation system. Sonam candidly admitted, “I didn’t know much about city bus facilities; I thought one must have a card to travel in the city bus, but I was wrong.” However, upon discovering the accessibility of the City bus service, she realized the misconception she had been under. “I have been paying Nu. 150 to the taxi driver whenever I come into town, but now I travel on the city bus, which is comparably cheaper,” Sonam remarked.

Anjana Gurung, a 23-year-old employed at a private firm, shared her commuting experience with a touch of financial prudence. Residing in Hejo while her workplace is situated in the town, she initially resorted to taxi services for her daily commute. However, the cost of Nu. 40 per trip proved to be a financial strain for her. Anjana mentioned, “I stay in Hejo, and my office is in the town. Initially, I used to come in a taxi where I had to pay Nu. 40 for each trip. The cumulative expense of Nu. 80 daily for commuting was burdensome for me.”

In a bid to manage her transportation expenses more efficiently, Anjana made a strategic shift to using the city bus service. She opted to recharge her smart card with Nu. 1000 in December, a move that allowed her to benefit from the cost-effective public transportation system. Remarkably, even after three months, in March, she still had a balance of Nu. 160 on her transportation card.

The Smart Card System has transformed the bus service, making transactions cashless and digital. This system not only ensured accurate revenue tracking but also provided valuable data for pattern studies, essential for future planning and service enhancement. It offers contactless payment, reloadable cards, multi-use functionality across different transportation modes, and reduced fare options for specific groups like students, seniors, and persons with disabilities. Currently, there are 23,978 smart card users, with 27,791 smart cards sold in total, and 13 recharge centres for Smart Cards.

Moreover, the integration of MBOB transactions on buses has further enhanced accessibility for commuters, allowing them to use mobile banking services to make payments. These digital advancements improve convenience for passengers and enhance revenue collection and operational efficiency for the City Bus Service.

Thinley Gyeltshen, a dedicated taxi driver navigating the bustling streets of Thimphu daily, provided a thoughtful perspective on the city’s transportation options. Reflecting on his experience, Thinley revealed, “I told my daughter to opt for a smart card since it is much cheaper to travel on the city bus rather than dropping her off at school daily.”

According to the official at City Bus Services, to ensure smooth operation and quality service provision, the buses need to be regularly refuelled for optimal performance. The average monthly expenditure on fuel per bus is Nu. 89,278. Additionally, to address technical issues and ensure proper maintenance, an average of Nu. 29,020.085 is spent per bus for servicing.

In line with the goal of providing an efficient city transport system catering to all segments of society, the city bus service has initiated a plan to enhance the system, focusing on environmental quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this initiative, an electric bus was purchased for Nu. 14,850,000/- and was inaugurated on 19 July 2023. The electric bus service commenced for the public on 20 July 2023, operating along the trunk route. The average monthly electric bill for charging the e-bus amounts to Nu. 2415.15, contributing to sustainable and eco-friendly transportation solutions for the city.

According to Pasang Tshering, the Director of City Bus Services, “Currently, we do not have enough buses. When a bus breaks down, we encounter challenges in promptly replacing it. However, we are actively addressing this issue by considering the addition of more buses to enhance the quality of our services. I urge the public to choose public transportation, specifically city buses, as they offer numerous benefits to individuals and society as a whole.”

The City Bus Service in Thimphu operates with a dedicated team of 97 staff who work tirelessly to ensure the smooth functioning of public transport and meet the aspirations of commuters. The staff includes various roles such as Directors, Managers, Operations, Maintenance, Customer Care, and more, all contributing to the efficient operation of the bus service.

The operation of the City Bus Service is meticulously planned, with buses running on a schedule that ensures a bus every 8 minutes during peak hours on trunk lanes and every 30 minutes on subsidiary lanes. This frequency improves reliability and accessibility for commuters across the city. The routes are strategically designed to cover a wide network and cater to the diverse travel needs of residents throughout the day and night.

The bus fleet of the City Bus Service consists of a total of 60 buses, including 9 Coaster, 5 Golden Dragon, 18 Eicher, 27 SML Isuzu, and 1 Skywell Electric Bus. These buses serve the city on 21 routes, comprising 16 day routes and 5 night routes. The day routes cover various destinations from morning 7:00 AM covering various routes such as Ngabiphu-Dechenchholing, Babesa, Serbithang, Debsi Phakha, Motithang, Kuenselphodrang, Lungtenphu, Hontsho, Pamtsho, Royl Thimphu College. The night routes operate from the City Bus Terminal to different locations like Dechhencholing, Babesa, Motithang, Pamtsho providing extended service hours until 12:30 am.

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