Digital Matatus is a joint project between MIT, Columbia University, Groupshot and the University of Nairobi that is attempting to map Nairobi’s informal transit system.
Digital Matatus uses mobile data collection to map the routes of Matatus, or private buses. They used this data to develop mobile routing application and a map of the transit system. Their goal is to develop a framework that can be utilized to map transit systems across the world.
Currently operating in Nairobi, but they are working to expand to further 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
– Columbia University
Currently the end user of the application will be anyone using public transit in Nairobi.
Eventually they hope to work with cities and regional transport authorities to setup partnerships to collect data and map transit systems.
The mobile data collection was performed with a customized version of MyTracks.1
Formatting of the data into the GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) was initially done by hand. Now they have developed a web based application Digital Matatus GTFS Editing Tool that simplifies the formatting process and they plan to make it publicly available soon.
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.
There have been over 5,000 downloads of the data and paper maps since 2014. 2
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])
They designed the paper maps at the Civic Data Design LabInterview with representative:1) Look at transit maps of systems in New York or London.
3) Lay down a grid and start to draw lines at 45 and 90 degree angles on top of the grid.
4) Create a colored lines for each group of routes.
5) Create stops for your transit system.
You can also watch our videos of how we made the map:
Digital Matatus provides access to the GTFS data sets. They provide general guidelines from the World Bank for integrating GTFS data into your application.
From their Vision page:
“Our vision is to use technology and local partnerships to make public transit in cities more visible, legible, service oriented, efficient, and open.”
From survey data1:
– 80% of respondents didn’t have access to this 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
– University of Nairobi
– Google Maps
– Open Street Maps
- Klopp J, Williams S. 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; 2016.Sarah
- Williams, Adam White, Peter Waiganjo, Daniel Orwa, Jacqueline Klopp, 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, 2015, Pages 39-51, ISSN 0966-6923,
- Klopp J, Mutua J, Orwa D, Waiganjo P, White A, Williams S. Towards a Standard for Paratransit Data: Lessons from Developing GTFS Data for Nairobi’s Matatu System. Transportation Research Board 93rd Annual Meeting. 2014.
– Academic research
– Field Trials
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