3,586 taxis in Thimphu alone

Chhimi Dema

With the movement of people and carrying capacity restricted, taxi drivers in the capital are calling for a cap on the number of taxis.

Shortage of parking space, traffic congestion and lack of business, they said were the reasons for the need to relook into the taxi business.

As of March 31, there are 5,519 taxis registered with the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA). Out of that 3,586 taxis are in Thimphu.

A taxi driver, Tshegay who has been in the business for two years said that if restrictions are imposed on the number of taxis in the country, earning would be better. “Earning in taxi business is arduous because the number is not regulated,” said a taxi driver. “Now with fewer people outside and with the rule to carry only two passengers it even harder for us to earn,” he said.

Drivers said the Taxi Operating Permit (TOP) system initiated in 2016 was effective because the number of taxis in the country was capped and that allowed them to earn better. The TOP system was lifted by the present government.

Although having the TOP system was helpful to monitor the number of taxis in the country, many started exploiting the system. People were selling the TOP card for around Nu. 35,000/- in the market said a taxi driver from Paro.

A taxi driver waiting for passengers at Changlam pointed out that with increasing number of taxis, there is regular traffic congestion and lack of a parking space in Thimphu.

There has been an average increase of 7.4 percent in the numbers of taxis in the country from 2017 till the first quarter of 2020 whereas between 2015-2017 saw an average increase of 6.35 percent.

However, RSTA officials said that they cannot put a cap on the number of taxis. RSTA’s planning officer Leki Choeda said they are leaving the market open and giving equal opportunities for everyone to make a livelihood.

“If the taxi business in Thimphu is not good then they would be encouraged to drive in other dzongkhag. The high density of population and the market in Thimphu attracts taxis drivers to Thimphu,” he said.

Observers also feel that it is not fair to limit the number as others would want to join the business. “It is not fair to ask only a certain number of people to operate taxis,” said one.