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12 August, 2018 01:01:58 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 12 August, 2018 08:32:57 AM

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Dhaka bus mapping project to go digital

FAISAL MAHMUD
Dhaka bus mapping project to go digital

With informal networks and unplanned stoppages, Dhaka’s bus service is a hodgepodge. It is difficult to find a local to figure out which buses go where, never mind a visitor.

Any attempt to map the city’s bus routes would be a job better suited to a labyrinth puzzle designer rather than a cartographer.

Two groups, however, thought differently five years ago. US-based social venture organisation Urban Launchpad and Bangladeshi advocacy firm Kewkaradong jointly designed the first bus route map of Dhaka. The maps produced by them were an instant hit among the commuters. They were circulated in the print form on a very small scale of 5,000 copies. With increased awareness among people because of the student-led protest for safer roads, Dhaka bus route designers now

plan to revive its work on a larger platform: mobile app.

Talking with The Independent, Mustafiz Mamun, coordinator of the Dhaka Bus Mapping project, said the first map had been prepared after years of research, field work and data collection. “That map could have assisted even an uninitiated Dhaka commuter in finding the bus services for him/her,” he added.

Mamun said the herculean task of creating such maps only became possible because of some unique approaches adopted by Urban Launchpad. He also said that a technique was piloted five years ago whereby a flock of smartphone-armed volunteers were deployed to rapidly collect data on Dhaka’s bus system.

“We called that method flocksourcing,” he added.

In one week, the flock tracked 270 buses on two lines and surveyed 1,000 people. The data they collected helped the group to get a first glimpse of not just routes, but travel times, crowding levels, who rode each line and what makes the bus rider happy.

Mamun said the pilot greatly exceeded their expectations and revealed some interesting insights. The survey found that the bus rider’s happiness was more dependent on the

number of passengers rather than bus speed. It also found that less crowding was due to larger size of buses and any bus with more women were likely to be less crowded than the others.

After such field work, said Mamun, the data collected was sent to the technical team in San Francisco, led by Albert Ching, a former researcher in sustainable transport at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the co-founder and chief designer of Urban Launchpad. “Ching tried to translate all the data that we collected into something simple to understand and excessively useful for bus riders in Dhaka. He started with a complicated map of the bus lines—already clustered into fewer lines based on their general direction and mapped topologically to the exact geographic coordinates of Dhaka,” he added.

Mamun said they had printed an A3-sized map—a little larger than a tabloid sized map—and made it foldable for the pocket. “The paper-based map was successful, but these days people don’t keep such things in their pockets. So, we will design an app, which would contain all the information of the map as well as some added features,” he added.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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