Digital Matatus is a joint project between MIT, Columbia University, Groupshot and the University of Nairobi working towards mapping Nairobi’s informal transit system through crowdsourcing.
Digital Matatus was created to provide transit information in the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The project, an alliance between MIT, Columbia University, Groupshot and the University of Nairobi, used mobile data collection to map the routes of Matatus (private buses), to create a GTFS system and a map of the informal transit system.
Currently operating in Nairobi, but working to deploy in other cities.
“We continue to work in Nairobi but aim to build a support network for other cities. We have also started a formal partnership with TransportforCairo to map more of Cairo.” Interview with representative
University of Nairobi, MIT, Columbia University
The mobile data collection was performed with a customized version of MyTracks.
Formatting of the data into the GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) was initially done by hand. Currently, a web based application, Digital Matatus GTFS Editing Tool, simplifies the formatting process.
The GTFs editing tool is complete and was used to do the first update of Digital Matatus. The company has yet to launch it formally but intends to make it open source.Interview with representative
Digital Matatus utilizes data collected from partners to continuously update the data set to keep it as current as possible.
Type of visuals supported (maps, charts, heat maps, layers, other)
Resource management, M&E, survey for project manegement (baseline, midline, and endline), household surveys for Health, Ag, financial inclusion, water, education,other, academic research survey, impact evaluations, market research, other (specify)
Specify the type of data collected by this service [Text, Numbers, Multimedia (Photos, video, audio, etc), Location, Other]
Mobile app data collection, remote sensing, government census data, etc.
Is the data from this application available?
Supported formats (JSON, XLS, CSV, KML, XML, other)
Telecommunication service required for the product/service to work (Mobile data, SMS, voice, Internet, Other)
Devices required for the product/service to work. (smartphone ,feature phone, computer, tablet, other [specify])
Through a pre-selected mobile application, students from University of Nairobi rode several Matatus routes with mobile phones in their hands. The stops were identified as well. With the collected data, and after workshops with local transit experts, a more flexible GTFS standard was created. This standard is suitable for transit systems with high level of complexity and informality, such as Nairobi’s.
Digital Matatus also designed a paper map at the Civic Data Design LabInterview with representative . Below are the steps towards achieving this solution:
1) Inspiration came from transit maps of systems in New York or London
2) Crowdsourced data was transferred into a software like Illustrator or Rhinoceros (Digital Matatus used Rhinoceros)
3) A grid was laid down and lines drawn at 45 and 90 degree angles on top of the grid
4) Colored lines were created for each group of routes
5) Stops for each line in the transit system was inserted
Digital Matatus provides access to the GTFS datasets. General guidelines from the World Bank for integrating GTFS data into other applications is also provided.
Digital Matatus intents to improve public transit in cities through technology, namely by using information gathered from the commuters.
– 80% of respondents didn’t have access to these data before the project
– 86% of respondents believed the map made it easier to use public transit in Nairobi
– 83% of respondents reported that they would try alternate Matatu routes with the map
– 50% of respondents reported that they believed that Nairobi’s Matatu system was better than they previously thought after seeing the map
University of Columbia, MIT, University of Nairobi, Groupshot
Google Maps, Open Street Maps
Klopp, J., Williams, S., 2016, Leveraging Cellphones for Wayfinding and Journey Planning in Semi-formal Bus Systems: Lessons from Digital Matatus in Nairobi. In: Planning Support Systems and Smart Cities. SPRINGER INTERNATIONAL PU
Williams, A., Waiganjo, P., Orwa, D., Klopp, J., 2015, The digital matatu project: Using cell phones to create an open source data for Nairobi’s semi-formal bus system, Journal of Transport Geography, Volume 49, Pages 39-51, ISSN 0966-6923
Klopp, J., Mutua, J., Orwa, D., Waiganjo. P,, White. A,, Williams, S., 2014, Towards a Standard for Paratransit Data: Lessons from Developing GTFS Data for Nairobi’s Matatu System. Transportation Research Board 93rd Annual Meeting
Klopp, J., Mutua, J., Orwa, D., Waiganjo. P,, White. A,, Williams, S., 2017, Informal 2.0: Seeing and Improving Urban Informal Practices through Digital Technologies The Digital Matatus case in Nairobi, The Journal of Field Actions, p. 39-43
Academic research, Field trials
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