Yangyel Lhaden

Come November and Thimphu Thromde will implement the new routes, bus stops, and terminals that are identified through geographic information system (GIS)-based street mapping.

In the past 22 years, since the start of the City Bus Service (CBS) in Thimphu, the routes, bus stops and terminals were based on complicated conventional maps.

Lack of technical expertise and problems in organisational structure posed serious challenges in upgrading the system. The CBS was under Bhutan Post Corporation while its services were related to the thromde office.

Last year, the CBS was placed under Thimphu Thrompon. Thimphu thromde’s Chief Urban Planner Thinley Norbu said for city bus services it required land for routes and bus stops which was directly related with the thromde office.

He said officials from CBS presented how city buses functioned and shared bus stops were randomly selected according to public demand and about the inefficiency of the circular route.

Thinley Norbu said both CBS and Thimphu thromde felt the need for a professional study according to GIS to identify routes, bus stops, and terminals.

That’s when the urban planning division began studying every bus stop and route to map the new routes based on population density.

Urban Planner, Sonam Jamtsho said for efficient public transport, accurate timing for bus arrival was important. “Our concept of new routes was an interchange of buses whereby a person had to wait for a maximum of 10 minutes for the next bus.”

For example, he said that a person travelling to Motithang from Babesa could board a bus on the trunk lane and disembark at Memorial Chorten. From there the person can board a subsidiary bus to Motithang.

A trunk or main lane from Babesa to Dechecholing will connect North and South of Thimphu. Those places not covered by trunk routes are connected with each other and to the trunk route by subsidiary routes.

Ten subsidiary routes are Samtenling to Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School (YHSS), Zilukha to Motithang, Motithang to YHSS, Changedaphu to Lungtenphu, Changjalu-old highway-Semtokha-Olakha workshop, Pelkhil Higher Secondary School to Royal Thimphu College (RTC)  junction, Babesa to Debsi, RTC junction to RTC, RTC to Serbithang, and Changbangdu to Changzamtog.

A ring road, for interconnection within the city covering places: flyover bridge, hospital, Changangkha, Kawajangsa, Centenary Farmers’ Market, Babesa Express Way, and back to fly over bridge is also identified.

Sonam Jamtsho said that complete coverage was impossible as there were chances a bus could ply empty to places such as upper Pamtsho. “Upper Pamtsho is not connected to CBS.”

Currently, the city bus follows a circular route meaning buses start and end the journey at the only terminal in Changlam taxi parking which consumes time.

Sonam Jamtsho said that the GIS team in its initial study identified two terminals in North and South but that was not enough. “An additional central terminal at the CBS office is identified. One in Motithang is in the plan.”

A southern terminal at the RTC junction is under construction and the northern terminal will be in Dangrina.

Sonam Jamtsho said that the team studied the distance a person had to walk or travel to a stop upon boarding and after getting off the bus.

He said that the last-mile connectivity could be walking, driving with a private car to the bus stop, and cab. “ Driving with a private car to the bus stop is not feasible in Bhutan.”

He said at least a footpath connectivity should be provided according to our plan. “Construction of the footpath will depend on the budget.”

Thromde is conducting a two-year study of the feasibility of a rapid transit system or a dedicated lane for buses.

Edited by Tshering Palden