Chaos runs extreme the moment one enters the periphery of the Lungtenzampa taxi stand in Thimphu. Taxi drives rush for customers; the hunt is almost anarchic.
More than the rush for passengers, taxi divers at the stand are now struggling for parking space. While some drivers spend more than six hours finding passengers during off-seasons, those with quick reflexes take less than an hour to fill their vehicles. The faster a taxi exits, it creates space for those waiting in the queue.
The taxis at the parking are those coming from places other than Thimphu. Cabbies are seen circling in the area hunting for a space to park their vehicle. Recently, taxi tshogpas from five dzongkhags gathered to discuss the issue of space crunch at the parking.
Paro taxi tshogpa, Namgay, said that with the limited number of parking spaces allocated for the taxies at the stand, drivers are finding it difficult to operate. “Before this new rule came in, at least 200 vehicles could easily adjust in the parking,” said Namgay. “Now hardly 26 taxies can be accommodated in the space allocated to us.”
The problem started about two months ago when the parking space was redesigned to accommodate a limited number of taxies. The challenges of the limited space were taken to the traffic division of the Royal Bhutan Police and the thromde for further discussion.
However, Nidup Tshering of the Phuentsholing taxi tshogpa said that neither of the two parties formally acknowledged their involvement in the new design. “We are confused on who is responsible for this new design and whom should we approach to discuss the matter with,” he said.
Previously, taxies from other dzongkhags were allowed to park in the parking space below Yangchenphug and Lungtenzampa schools. However, the practise has also been stopped said Kinley from Wangdue.
“There are at least two traffic police deployed at the YHSS parking. If our vehicles are seen parked in those areas, we are straight away issued a transport infringement notice (TIN),” said Nidup Tshering. “If they allow, there is enough space for us to park our taxies at the stand.”
The tshogpas said that having to circle around the parking area until a space is created becomes an expensive affair for the drivers. “Some drivers have even started to sell the spaces, thereby, making an income without having to drive around,” said Namgay.
More than 200 taxies from Wangdue and Punakha alone come to Thimphu daily.
Meanwhile, traffic officials said that the new design was being implemented with an objective to decongest traffic in the area. It was also done in order to keep the area clean since the area was polluted with garbage and human excrement.
The official said that since most of the regional and international tourists visit the place, keeping the area clean is a social responsibility of all. “The area was congested before and for the safety of both the drivers and passengers we had to make space for smooth traffic flow,” he said, adding that the traffic division is just there to enforce the law and they don’t have the jurisdiction to address the issues raised.
Thimphu Thromde’s executive secretary, Passang Dorji, said that since a choeten is located near the taxi stand, the growing garbage issue in the area was destroying the sanctity of the choeten.
Therefore, an area near the choeten was identified for plantation of flowers. In order to keep the area clean, Passang Dorji said that the thromde will soon start the plantation in the area, which will discourage the public from littering there.