Changing mindsets on public transport

The country’s roads, especially in urban centres like Thimphu city or Phuentsholing, are getting crowded. With increasing imports of vehicles, increasing regional tourists visiting in their own vehicles, and a regional transport agreement that could see more foreign traffic on our soil, the existing road infrastructure is set to be overwhelmed in a few years, or sooner.

Already we’re seeing the signs. Bumper to bumper traffic jams regularly plague Thimphu’s road both as a result of increasing number of vehicles, poor road designs and junctions, and inadequate driver knowledge.

But there is some hope on the horizon. Thimphu city’s bus system is set to be upgraded.

With World Bank support, a number of improvements are being planned. Improvements that will be implemented from next year until 2018. Some of the upgrades include better bus stops with shelters, that are adequately linked to the pedestrian footpath network, and addition of more buses. A cashless payment system, a web-based app that provides information to commuters, and a preemptive maintenance system of buses are also in the works.

This is obviously a long overdue upgrade that’s set to take place and make public transport not only more efficient but an alternative to driving a private vehicle.

Public transport plays a very important role to society, especially the lower income groups. It provides for better access to education, health care and recreation.

It also must be well integrated with other forms of transport like taxis and the pedestrian footpath system.

While the World Bank’s team will seek to ensure that every bus stop is easily accessible to pedestrians with footpaths and zebra crossings within a 50 metre radius, it is equally important that the thromde also look to fully realize the potential of footpaths outside these 50 metre radius bus stop zones.

While new footpaths are being constructed and other pedestrian improvements, like zebra crossings, are being implemented, there are still many areas in Thimphu city that lack footpaths or zebra crossings. Thimphu city is still a small city, or a town for that matter, when compared to other cities. The walking distances are already not lengthy but can become even shorter if a well-planned comprehensive network is implemented.

If good and safe infrastructure is provided, a growing health conscious vehicle owning population may opt to walk occasionally.

An extensive footpath system linked to a better bus network could serve as an alternative to owning a car, or at least choosing to drive your own car to town.

While owning a car is a status symbol in our society, efforts must begin to change the mindset that only those who cannot own a car use public transport. But for this to happen, the public transport system has to be efficient first.

Perhaps to aid the process of increasing efficiency, and to change the people’s mindset, some of our high-ranking officials, our representatives in parliament, instead of driving fuel guzzling sports utility vehicles, could start using the public transport system occasionally.

Those of us who own vehicles should also try to use the public transport system, so that we can experience it first hand and provide feedback to the service providers.

A good public transport system has to be easy and convenient to use, efficient and affordable.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    Even being chain smokers or a regular in alcohol consumption, we as parents on many occasions expect our children and youth to be void all ill affects of such bad habits. Why we need to smoke or why we allow others to smoke at our homes, offices, restaurants, bars, etc are questions reflective of a thinking mind. But that’s more in line of work with the narcotics control agency as we have noticed recently with surprised fines of last Friday. Now that’s a different subject all together. But even when it comes to owning and use of personal vehicles, the question is why we prefer a personal vehicle to a public mode of transport? Are we concerned about travel convenience, transport needs, size of the family, reason for travel and safety of our family while travelling!

    Owning a car may be status symbol in our country, but even here people buy a car for safety of his entire family including young children. How safe it is to travel by public transport when we are travelling with kids? Our school buses need to have certain fixed safety measures in place, can we expect the same in our public buses? Safety in travel or transport needs vary from a little baby to a child to a pregnant woman to an old person to ones with certain disabilities. Some of it even influences our driving uses and need of a private vehicle. Now even public transport doesn’t mean only buses. There are taxis used for more personalised travel needs. But when we say a bus-stop, it’s meaningless without a bus stopping at regular intervals. And to keep the service reasonably affordable, the city will demand the population.

    Interesting part is that the need of a private vehicle arises the moment we think of family expansion. A rider on bike starts to think a car with a pregnant wife or toddlers and children to take care of during travelling. There are some who just enjoy driving. So the use of private vehicles and driving needs are bound to stay unless we consider our public buses to address all the needs. Till then, we can hope that the public transport development and related services don’t grow beyond demand to create larger traffic issues in distant future. Leaving the car and bike parked at home to jump into a city bus doesn’t always solve traffic issues; do it? There is a fine line between every two things or we don’t think beyond travelling point A to B with occasional trips to C where trips to D can be saved for weekends and that too after 8-00 in the evening only. Now what about point E, or should we say why point E is at point E!

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