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Nairobi's informal bus routes are mapped at last

The first map of Nairobi's informal private bus routes is now available on Google Maps. (Digital Matatus)

Thousands of privately owned buses called matatus ply the streets of Nairobi. The buses are inexpensive and fill a public-transit void. But figuring out where each line goes is confusing, especially since routes and ticket prices change all the time and without warning.

Now, however, it’s all mapped out, Shara Tonn reports for Wired.

A collaboration called Digital Matatus released an inaugural version of the map last year. Last week, the bus network was added to Google Maps, making it accessible to riders via smartphones. The development represents the first time that an informal bus system was featured on the popular map site, the article says. Researchers from two leading U. S. universities, MIT and Columbia, teamed with the University of Nairobi and the Boston-area design firm Groupshot on the project.

To create the map, ten university students spent four months riding the private buses to document their locations, Tonn notes. They recorded nearly 3,000 stops along more than 130 routes. The digital map has helped bus drivers tweak routes to avoid congestion and reach more underserved areas, Wired says. Digital Matatus hopes to introduce the concept in four other African cities: Kampala, Accra, Lusaka and Maputo.


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