A three-storey multi-parking building that can accommodate 202 vehicles was opened in Phuentsholing to ease the parking space problem. Two similar structures are being built in the capital city. When they open, there will be 574 parking spaces created.
Parking space is a big problem both in Phuentsholing and Thimphu. The space created comes as a relief to motorist who drive round and round looking for space. The two towns are so congested that motorist are now feeling that it is easier to walk than drive.
The new addition to the thromde’s structure is but a temporary solution. Some are already questioning the giant concrete structures in the heart of the city. It is an eyesore, perhaps because it is still being built. Besides the aesthetics, the bigger question is will creating parking space solve the problem?
The problem lies in our planning and policy-making. Long before parking space became a problem, we realised that our infrastructure will be overwhelmed by number of vehicles. Thimphu is a fast growing city, at least in terms of number of vehicles. Going by the statistics maintained by the road safety authority, the only increasing number in Bhutan is that of vehicles. Within a few decades, the number of vehicles touched the 100,000 mark.
As of yesterday, there are 100,544 vehicles in the country. In September 2018, when Kuensel wrote the last story on traffic, the number was 98,475. In four months, 2,069 new vehicles were added on our roads. The highest number is concentrated in Thimphu and Phuentsholing. Thimphu alone has half of the total registered vehicles in the country. In other words, the thromde will require more ‘multi-parking’ buildings across the city.
But that would not be the solution. The solutions lie in making bold decisions- implementing the decisions after recognising the problem. One area we have failed in finding alternatives. We had long talked about improved public transport- cheap, efficient and reliable. We have not even attempted.
In the meantime, there is a vehicle buying frenzy. Our policies are encouraging more people to buy. Banks dish out cheap loans. If there are interventions, there are better tricks to outsmart regulations. One vehicle import quota, it was found, can now buy two cars. At this rate, we will soon hit the 400 vehicle per 1000 people mark experts predicted to be by 2040.
The thromde, as building regulators, will have to share the blame for not finding parking space. Leaving enough parking spaces for tenants is mandatory. It is a basis of approving building construction. If it is followed, our roads will not become narrower. The parking space reflected in the drawings are turned into shops, godowns and snooker rooms.
There are many problems that do not require studies or researches to be identified. Traffic congestion is one. It affects all, including policy makers. They shouldn’t forget when they are chauffeur- driven around the city.