Increasing vehicle numbers has increased pressure on the limited parking space

Yangyel Lhaden

With thousands of new cars hitting the streets every year, parking space crunch in the capital city is spiralling out of control.

Thimphu saw 59,390 new vehicles or 53 percent of the total vehicles in 2020 according to the latest records of Ministry of Information and Communications.

Last year, total number of vehicles reached 112,058 vehicles, which is an increase of five percent compared with the previous year. In 2019, total number of vehicles in the country was 106, 681.

The city’s streets have 1,628 parking slots excluding the 130 free parking slots for taxis, to pick and drop passengers, and the two multi-level car parks with parking space for 570 cars.

The number of public parking spaces in city’s core area increased over the years from 950 parking slots in 2016 to 1,011 in 2017, and 13 more slots were added in 2018.

In 2019, there was a drop of five parking slots (1,019) which further dropped to 1,008 in 2020 but 570 parking slots were added with the completion of the MLCPs. 

This year, 245 more parking slots were added in parking slots in Olakha and Motithang.

A thromde official said fluctuation in parking spaces was due to zebra crossing along roads, closure of private parking areas, and re-alignment of parking positions.

The official said vehicle number growth in Thimphu was between 10 and 16 percent in the last 10 years. “Owing to limited space on the ground and a high rate of vehicle import the only option is to come up with more MLCPs.”

A study carried out by the throdme showed that by 2027 the thromde would require about 18,247 parking slots considering each car parked between three and five hours.

Thromde officials said one of the thromde’s method in improving parking management was to   widen the road wherever possible and create parking spaces. 

Bigger problem than parking space

Drivers said that parking fee collectors reserve parking space for those they know.

A resident in Thimphu, Rinchen Wangmo, said on three occasions a parking fee collector placed a stool at the parking space not allowing her to park. “Isn’t it first come first serve basis?”

Another resident said shopkeepers kept cartons and blocked the parking space. Others said taxis also park at public spaces.

Some who use the MLCP said that they had to wait for the gatekeeper to open the gate.  “There should be proper parking rules and efficient service delivery to make best use of existing parking space.”

“Not only with parking space but management of traffic has also become a problem due to traffic congestion,” a thromde official said.

One of the residents also said MLCPs were far away and carrying shopping bags and walking all around was not feasible.

Residents also complained of the huge increase in parking fees.

No parking for tenants

Residents also said that most houses in Thimphu do not have dedicated parking space for tenants. The basement or the ground floor, which is approved for parking, is turned into shops and residential space.  

A tenant, Dorji has no parking space in the building where he lives and to avoid paying parking fees he parks his car at night after the parking fee collector leaves and vacates before the fee collector returns in the morning.

He is out of options as he was penalised numerous times he parked on the road. “I am not alone in this situation.” 

Last year, Thimphu thromde and the traffic division started penalising those parking on the roadside. The idea was to force house owners to use specified space within the registered boundary to park vehicles.

Other residents in Thimphu said that if corrective measures were not taken urgently the problem could spiral out of control soon.