Picking up passengers…or drivers?

Even though it has only been live for a few days, this project has already been able to collect a number of responses from interested blog readers. Most of these have come in the form of questions, which I will address below as they are likely of common interest. Some of the responses are offers to participate in the project – which is fabulous, since encouraging and facilitating the participation of multiple public transport riders, map makers, and IT-nerds is the whole point of this exercise. Together we will determine how everyone’s contributions best fit together, so please bear with me as the project evolves from that of a frustrated guy with a computer wanting to make a map into a truly collective exercise.

Initial questions and suggestions

Multiple readers asked if I was aware of this map of public transport in Lusaka. I am; indeed it is an inspiration for this project. That map was very useful to help me figure out a few of the base minibus routes, but there seemed to be no way to improve it (refer to my comments). Moreover, I referred friends to the map who became lost when the minibus they were on did not follow the route described on the map. The sum conclusion that I gleaned from those experiences was that a map of public transport in Lusaka is valuable, but that it needs to be more comprehensive and able to adapt to additional information and changing circumstances.

Another common question was related to the vision of the map, specifically, with regards to the tool used to make and present it. Given that I was already familiar with a Google Maps rendition; my first thought was to use that platform. Through a quick Internet search on the subject of user-generated mapping I identified geocommons.com and openstreetmap.org as alternative possibilities. I have begun to map out the few routes that I know using all three platforms, but want to have a bit more familiarity with each one before linking here.

Related to the choice of platforms, one reader brought forth the issue of data ownership, strongly recommending the use of an open-source platform. This is a topic that I honestly do not know much about, but I recognize the issue and its importance. To date, it is GoogleMaps (which is not open-source) that I have become most familiar with, so there is a currently a tension between ease of use and a preference for open-source mapping.

Finally, one reader suggested that I have a look at this fantastic project from Kenya. It was a great suggestion, as although I have never been to Nairobi, it appears that Matatus function in the same decentralized and chaotic way as Lusaka’s public transport. Despite this, the Nairobi partnership has facilitated the production of an amazing map as part of larger social justice and city-building goals. I pan to contact the DigitalMatatus team soon enough, but for the time being am currently focusing on the nuts and bolts of this blog and the creation of a few simple maps.

In the meantime, all questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome; as you can see, I am quite excited by that received thus far! Accordingly, offers to participate are very valuable – and fortunately we will not wait for the vehicle to fill before setting off!!!

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