Monday, 9:30am—a total chaos near the office of the Department of Civil Registration and Census (DoCRC).
Issue: no parking space. From Norzin Lam to the highways, Thimphu is choking.
The four-lane road connecting Chubachu to Jushina has solved traffic congestion during peak office hours, to some extent. But the stretch near the DoCRC and the Department of Immigration is becoming increasingly unsafe for both drivers and pedestrians.
Every day, hundreds of people visit these offices for the services they offer, but there is no designated parking space for the visitors.
Private and cab drivers rush to get the roadside parking space, which can accommodate only about ten cars. That too is illegal, but visitors are left without option.
According to traffic police, congestion and lines of cars along the road slows the traffic, posing risks for drivers. And aggravating the problem, without a zebra crossing, pedestrian crossing is a major issue.
A private car owner who came to visit the immigration office said that thromde should have planned parking spaces before widening the road.
Cab drivers who regularly ferry people to the immigration and census office say they have to pick and drop off the people every day. The drivers who cannot find a parking space have to make a round of the four-lane until they get a space or a passenger.
Tandin Dorji, a cab driver, said that people from all dzongkhags gather at these offices to process various documents; immigration offices will be crowded once domestic travellers start arriving in the country.
Another driver, Pema Dorji, questioned urban planning without parking spaces. “The problem will only grow in the coming days. Who is responsible?”
Traffic Superintendent of Police (SP), Lt Colonel Namgay, said that the rules do not allow parking along highways or roadsides and around built-up areas. “Taxis are only allowed to pick and drop passengers.”
Traffic police fined 24 private vehicle owners last year; 27 private owners as of April this year for violating parking rules.
The SP said that the traffic police have been monitoring the speed every day and night on that stretch and the division was strict with the safety rules.
As per the Road Safety and Transport Regulation 2021, a person driving a motor vehicle shall not park or stop the vehicle on a footpath, pedestrian crossings, along expressways or multiple lane roads, on the bridge, blind curves, blocking the footpath, land-ways or private driveway, and between another vehicle and the centre of the road.
Those failing to obey the parking rules are liable to pay a penalty of Nu 600 once the new regulation comes into effect starting July this year.
Although it was the responsibility of the immigration and census offices to provide parking spaces for the visitors, Chief Urban Planner of Thimphu Thromde, Thinley Norbu, said that thromde had identified an empty area towards the south of the immigration office.
However, he said that the area needed to be developed. The thromde, however, does not have the budget to develop it.
According to Thinley Norbu, the four-lane road is a major (primary) road, and parking along the stretch is not permitted.
With vehicles crowding the highway near schools, the thromde has made it mandatory for schools to have enough parking spaces.
“Based on this condition and the existing traffic congestion (especially due to schools), we have rejected some of the recent proposals for new schools,” Thinley Norbu said.
The city has an estimated 2,246 on-street and off-street parking slots, including free parking for taxi pick and drop, and the two multi-level car parks.
According to the first quarterly surface transport statistical bulletin, 120, 441 vehicles were registered in the country as of March this year.