Mapping the informal public transport network in Kampala with smartphones: making sense of an organically evolved chaotic system in an emerging city in sub-Saharan Africa
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In cities in the emerging world, public transport networks are governed by a large number of agents, each with their own agendas, priorities, incentives and resources, interacting nonlinearly through complex feedback loops. The transport system in these cities have developed into a semi-chaotic self-organizing structure with seemingly unpredictable behaviour to an outside observer. This is due to user agent actions by passengers, independent determination of operating plans and practices by transport operators, and a managing authority exhibiting a lack of will (both political and institutional), to implement adequate control measures to provide regulation and management of these systems. Based on the problems that face transport systems in developing cities and public transport in particular, this paper reports on an attempt to understand the supply of public transport in the Kampala area in a novel manner. We describe a mapping approach using a custom-developed smartphone application which was used to quickly and accurately capture informal transport systems for analysis and study of urban mobility where no dependable data was currently available. Secondly, based on the data created by the study project, to provide insights into the routes, operations, and characteristics of the minibus taxi network which convey the majority of Kampala’s travelers. Our hypothesis is that by understanding the network in geospatial terms, we will be able to create benefits for all role-players and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the supply of public transport to more closely match the demand for public transport in an emerging world city.