Sometimes life brings surprises. Two such surprises came to me last week when conducting a Google search to see if this blog would be in the top ten results (using the search term = “Lusaka public transport”). Well, unfortunately this blog has not yet seen enough traffic to capture Google’s attention. Conversely, the search did yield some valuable finds:
1) A Masters thesis on the history of public transport in Lusaka, and
2) A recent policy brief about the state of public transport in the city including policy recommendations about how to improve the situation.

From the half of it that I have read thus far, the Masters thesis is impressive and informative, but the contents are not entirely relevant to this project about the operation of public transport in Lusaka in 2014. As for the policy brief…

The Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis & Research (ZIPAR) deserves enormous credit for embarking on a project to assess the state of public transport in contemporary Lusaka. In doing so they take a rare stance in the Zambian public discourse by recognizing the links between public transport and:
-social justice,
-the economy,
-the environment, and
-general urban quality of life.

More notably for this project, the authors of this policy brief also describe having mapped (with the aid of GPS) approximately 50 bus routes! Fortunately, the authors were highly responsive to my request to discuss their work in more detail, allowing me to better understand their work and its utility.

In further speaking with the authors learned that the effective number of routes is actually smaller than stated since many of these routes are merely repeats that serve different terminals. For example, “Chelstone-Avondale” is counted four times; once for each of the terminals that it serves. Regardless, the mapping component of ZIPAR’s work provides an extremely useful base upon which to build an initial map.

Some of ZIPAR’s findings contradict my own experience, and part of their approach disregards what I consider to be useful information. I will follow these points up with the report authors in order to better inform my next steps. In the meantime I will be processing ZIPAR’s findings in order to translate them from their original purpose to those that are useful for a route map.

Despite its utility, the information that I have seen ZIPAR collect is merely a starting point for an initial route map in this complex system; we will need to build upon it. To that end I look forward to the contributions of riders who have offered to map their routes or capture the GPS coordinates of their stops. Nonetheless, I will strive to make it completely clear when ZIPAR’s work serves as a source of information. To this end I hope this project is able to extend the practical relevance of their research. After all, the goals of this project and those of their policy analysis should be complementary.


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