Not all passengers, whether in the air, on sea, or land are nice fellow travellers. Just as airlines are dealing with rowdy, unruly and sometimes violent passengers, the management of City Bus Services has something to worry about – passengers. And this is not about not having enough passengers.

They are concerned about unruly or rowdy passengers disrupting the service. And worse, compromising the safety of bus drivers and fellow passengers. Reports of youth threatening bus drivers and causing nuisance to fellow passengers are increasing. Although not many incidents are reported to authorities, eyewitnesses say that some youths are turning the buses into a place to abuse substances. It may be ‘thinner” or “dendrite” today, it could be something harder tomorrow. Some of the miscreants are high school students.

 The unfortunate incidents coincide with the city bus management putting in extra effort to improve the service in the capital. After years of planning and talking, we are seeing improvement in the services. There are more buses on the roads, increasing frequency, and reliability has improved and the service has been extended to late night and early morning.

If the service is cheaper, it is becoming more reliable. Thimphu has become expensive and many live on the outskirts to avoid hefty house rents. Extending city bus services to these areas helped commuting easier and cheaper. In this light, the last thing the management wants is to lose the confidence of passengers or make them feel unsafe because of a few unruly passengers causing trouble.

Given the high cost of transport and congestion, affordable and reliable public transport has become crucial in expensive cities like Thimphu. It is said that a bus can replace a dozen cars on the street thus reducing vehicular emission, which is one of the highest causes of pollution in the country. 

There is recognition and efforts in place to further improve the bus service. Having passenger buses that are not safe for passengers will be a huge bump on the road. The police have agreed to assist the city bus service management, but it will only stretch the already stretched human resource of the Royal Bhutan Police. Making passenger buses safe should be a priority and the responsibility cannot be left to the police or city bus management alone.

It could, for instance, start from home when parents prepare to send their children to take the bus. Fellow passengers should not shy away or be scared of reporting unexpected activities to the police or management. With women on the wheels and many others availing the services after late-night job shifts, the bus service should be seen as a safe means of transport. Having to fear or worry about their safety while going home or to work will deride the efforts put in to encourage safe and reliable public transport services.

While improved security features are being planned, taking actions like no-ride list of offenders could make city bus service more pleasant. Airlines tried this, and it is working. Ours may be basic public transport like city buses. It could work and work well if the services are improved to make it an indispensable service for those residing in the city.