Commuters in Thimphu, especially those boarding city buses from Changjiji, will now have updated information about arrival and departure timing.
The bus information system, on trial, claims to provide information about its routes and travel time to passengers. It is a good initiative and if the project is successful, it should be replicated at all other bus stops. This could encourage more people to avail public transport services and stop them from availing loans to buy cars.
Reliable and efficient public transport is something that we had been talking about for years without much success. Technology can aid in making public transport reliable. If the bus arrives on time and departs on time, more and more people will take to public transport. However, it is up to the man or woman behind the wheels even if we have digital screens showing the arrival time.
With technology, manpower too needs to be trained and made accountable. In developed countries, policy makers encourage and invest in public transport. Public transport operators apologise publicly even for a few seconds delay in arrival or departure. This builds trust in the commuters and operators.
Our roads are getting congested. As of October this year, there are 47,048 vehicles in Thimphu. This is one vehicle for every 2.1 person in Thimphu assuming the capital’s population is 100,000. Our roads can only accommodate a certain number of cars. The length of our roads and the parking spaces are not keeping pace with the number of vehicles.
Good public transport is the only realistic solution we see now. The lack of it is encouraging people to buy, and buy with loans. Looking at the capital city’s roads, there is something wrong. We used to boast about our capital city as the only city without traffic lights. That was a long time ago when it was smooth running without many cars. Not any more.
There is a need for more facilities on our roads in Thimphu to control the traffic if we can’t control the number of cars from growing. At the launch of the bus information system, the traffic was a mess. Office goers wondered what was happening as the traffic was moving at a snail’s pace.
Even without a ceremony on the expressway, the traffic is bad. What we need is a long-term plan. If it is not available, we need common sense in the short-term. Facilities to divert the traffic and pedestrians is not rocket science.
All we need, for instance, is an automatic electronic walk sign on the busy zebra crossings. This will ensure the safety of pedestrians and the smooth flow of traffic. Today, the traffic personnel interrupt a long queue of cars just to let one pedestrian cross.
Priority and professional planning is the need of the hour on our roads. It is not too late.