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Dhaka is Getting a Crowdsourced Bus Map

BY Julia Wetherell | Friday, January 4 2013

The Dhaka bus map, from the project's Kickstarter page.

The capital of Bangladesh is among the most densely populated areas in the world. Like many cities in south Asia, it is serviced by a labyrinthine bus system used by millions of commuters every day. The problem is, dozens of different companies provide bus services, and there’s no map, making travel around the city far from intuitive.

A collaboration between MIT social-venture group Urban Launchpad and Bangladeshi advocacy organization Kewkradong hopes to bring transparency to public transit in Dhaka. A data collecting project sends out “flocks” of smartphone-equipped volunteers onto the city’s bus routes, where they note stops, arrival times, traffic patterns, and crowding levels. The goal is to produce a comprehensive bus intelligence system, the heart of which is a user-friendly route map for citizens and visitors alike.

Despite the high-tech nature of the data collection, the map will have a primary life on paper, as a booklet distributed to bus riders and a poster for bus stops and public gathering spots like tea houses. By taking the headache out of navigating Dhaka by bus, the initiative hopes to discourage private car ownership, which tends to increase gridlock and pollution. A Kickstarter campaign for the bus map is ongoing through next week.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.