Our failure to deal with rising vehicle numbers is coming home to roost.

In Thimphu particularly, the problem of shortage of parking space has become so acute one has to drive for almost an hour to find a spot. During rush hours driving through any part of the city can be a treacherous experience. Some of the growing towns in the country are fast coming to witness such a trend. Phuentsholing, the country’s biggest commercial centre, has been grappling with booming population and growing vehicle numbers for some years now.

At the on-going National Graduates’ Orientation Programme at the Royal Institute of Management in Thimphu, the problem of parking space shortage has raised havoc. The problem really is not because of the lack of parking space at the institute but because almost all the graduates attending the programme choose to drive from home and back. The Royal Bhutan Police issued public notification in advance of the programme requesting the graduates to carpool so that traffic-related problems could be eased. The request, however, seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

For Bhutanese, owning a car used to be a status symbol. Today, it is a necessity. Living in a city that is growing fast calls for a pace that the change demands. We are busier today than we were a few decades ago. With the kind of economic prosperity that we are witnessing today we can ill afford to be a laid-back society. But the problem really seems to be our inability to develop an efficient and affordable public transport system. It has been observed that use of public transport buses is high during the rush hours.

According to the latest report from the Road Safety and Transport Authority, the two thromdes together have close to 85,000 vehicles. Thimphu Thromde alone has 50,391 vehicles. This means there is a car for every two thromde residents. Put it another way, every thromde household has about two cars.

The reality is that the vehicle numbers will keep growing unless and until we come up with a sustainable alternative. We might, therefore, do well to think beyond banning vehicle imports from time to time in an effort to address the problem of growing vehicle numbers and focus on improving public transport system in the country.

A robust and efficient public transport system is good not only for human health and environment; we will have a lot more space breathe and move around.