An academic team with GPS and cell phone technology in hand went out across Nairobi’s informal network of privately owned buses recently. Their object was to map the routes and see how the network operates, how it might be improved and subjected to a reasonable level of regulation and licensing. A classic response to local needs and resources, fast-growing Nairobi’s Matatu-based public transit evolved into a sometimes chaotic thing, spurred as well by the collapse of a conventional bus system decades previously.
Students and researchers involved with the mapping effort came from the Computing For Development Lab at University of Nairobi, the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University, and MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab. They found the scale and extent of the network is really quite something: a matrix of 120 routes converging on downtown. Could this open source example of transit provision, enhanced by digital technology, be pointing the way for other sprawling, fast-growing cities?
image: matatu via Wikimedia Commons