The World Bank is funding the upgrade of 77 more bus stops in the city

Transport: As part of an effort to improve public transport in Thimphu city, a model bus stop was inaugurated along the expressway, yesterday.

The unique features of the bus stop include a roof designed to look like a leaf to symbolically reflect the country’s environment policy. Seating that can accommodate up to 48 people, according to calculations by the information and communications ministry, is also provided.

A bus bay that allows the bus to park off the expressway so that it does not impede traffic during dropping off or picking up commuters has also been constructed.

A surveillance camera is also installed to monitor the travel behaviour of commuters and provide a record in case of any incident. On the steel pillar that holds up the roof, one of the pillar’s sides has been used to display a map that shows the location of the bus stop and route network.

Timings and frequency of buses would be added later. Social messages and advertisements will also be placed in the future.

There has also been a focus on providing adequate lighting to encourage women and children to use the bus after dark. The bus stop is also wheelchair accessible.

In an ambitious move, the ministry is also exploring the installation of free Wi-Fi internet at the bus stop. “These kinds of facilities will have direct and significant impact on changing the model shift from private cars to public transport in future,” the project’s manager, Sonam Dendup, said.

The bus stop was built at a cost of Nu 900,000 which some observers said was expensive.

However, it was pointed out by the architect, Phil McMaster, that 30 percent of the cost went into training Construction Development Corporation Ltd (CDCL) workers. McMaster designed the bus stop for free and it was constructed using CDCL workers who are also expected to work on the remaining stops.

Thimphu city has 105 bus stops, and the World Bank is funding the upgrade of 77 more. The model bus stop inaugurated yesterday was funded by the UNDP.

The cost of constructing the bus stops are expected to go down as more are built. McMaster said the that the constructing crew had not worked on such a structure prior but would now know how to build later models more efficiently, bringing down costs by 40-50 percent.

Sonam Dendup also added that economy of scale once production starts would drive down costs as well.

There was also some questions on why a simpler rectangular roof was not used.

McMaster said that the goal was to have a design that was “unmistakably Bhutanese” and not “out of a box that came from some other country”.

He said that other shapes had been looked at and different designs would still be explored for subsequent bus shelters as other locations would require smaller bus stops. He added that local artists both traditional and contemporary could also be requested to decorate some of the bus shelters so that each one is unique when it comes to arts and crafts.

The thromde, and information and communications ministry will also be open for public feedback on the model bus stop. The model bus stop will not be a final design, the information and communications secretary, Dasho Kinley Dorji, said.

Information and communications minister, DN Dhungyel said that the ministry is committed to constructing bus stops in all the 105 remaining locations within the next few years.

The minister pointed out that there are more than 76,000 vehicles in the country today of which more than half are located in Thimphu city. Lyonpo said Thimphu’s roads are already congested and that studies indicate that without any government intervention, it would take almost an hour to drive from one end of the expressway to the other.

To address the congestion, lyonpo DN Dhungyel said, the government is not only committed to improving the city bus service by increasing its fleet and improving infrastructure but also studying the feasibility of a congestion charge.

Thimphu thrompon, Kinlay Dorjee said that while the bus stop was well designed, rather than building up to 70 more bus stops under the next component funded by the World Bank more buses should be purchased. Thimphu city is currently served with 34 buses with an additional 18 expected under World Bank support.

The thrompon said that 18 additional buses may not be enough. He said at least 30 more buses need to be added. He also pointed out that some corporations have approached the thromde to construct bus stops as part of their corporate social responsibility which could make up for the amount of World Bank funding that is transferred for the purchase of more buses.

The next stage of the project is expected to commence by mid-next year.

Gyalsten K Dorji