Ad-Hoc Bus Systems

Individual matatu buses and routes are privately owned and operated, which means schedules and ticket prices can change at the whim of whoever’s in charge. Even finding the right stop can be tricky. You just kind of have to…know. If you choose the wrong line, you could waste half a day on an already long trip. Since most routes run through the city center before going back out, the roads—not designed for the megacity that Nairobi has become—are flooded with matatu congestion. One or two accidents on the main thoroughfares can shut down traffic for hours.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this Wired article, for me, was the entire concept of an ad-hoc bus system. I’m used to the government-run systems in all the towns I’ve lived in.
Still, it’s interesting to hear about how the public-transit data wound up in Google Maps: I distinctly remember seeing the local busses appear in Google Maps a couple of weeks after I got a paper copy of the bus schedule – it was handy, because in Google Maps you can actually see where the stops are, whereas the paper schedule was only accurate to the ‘somewhere near this intersection’ level.

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