CT's entire public transport network fully mapped

Read time 3min 40sec
Devin De Vries, co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport.
Devin De Vries, co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport.

WhereIsMyTransport, a transport technology company originally founded in SA, has made available data for the entire public transport network of Cape Town on its platform.

The start-up company says integrating data from both formal - officially provided - and informally-run minibus taxi transport for the South African city, makes Cape Town the world's first city to have both its formal and informally-run transport system data captured, integrated and openly available.

The company has created a map of the city's most active informally-run taxi routes, visualising data from the company's open platform.

WhereIsMyTransport is a platform for smart urban transport in emerging regions of the globe. The application program interface helps to integrate formal and informal transport to connect cities, operators and commuters for a more sustainable and efficient transport system.

In September last year, WhereIsMyTransport announced an investment of £1.165 million (R22 million) from Goodwell Ventures, together with the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm created by eBay's founder, and Horizon Ventures, as the first closing of a £2 million seed round.

In 2015, the start-up company completed its seed funding of R12 million. It expanded internationally with the opening a new office in London.

According to WhereIsMyTransport, informally-run transport accounts for 80-90% of public transport journeys for passengers in medium-sized emerging cities.

However, it notes, little documentation on these services exists, and where it does, data is incomplete or of low quality. Cape Town is now the only city in the world which has its entire transport system mapped, and where the data is integrated and accessible to anyone - on the WhereIsMyTransport platform, which is an application programming interface (API), the company says.

This platform has been created to allow developers, transport operators and government officials to build solutions, such as journey planners, fare estimators, communications tools and connected digital signage, that improve access to public transport information for citizens in emerging cities, as well as provide insight and analytics to aid city planning.

WhereIsMyTransport's 13 local data collectors spent under three weeks recording taxi journeys in Cape Town, mapping 657 unique routes, covering 8 870km, and capturing 1 482 of the most commonly used stops, with an average journey cost of R10.86.

These data points have been added to the WhereIsMyTransport platform alongside data for the city's formal transport network to provide a complete picture of all of the transport options available to residents of the city.

"Fully mapping Cape Town is a phenomenal achievement for our team. We've demonstrated that complex transport systems can be mapped at a much lower cost than many cities believe," says Devin De Vries, co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport.

"With our efficient technology and methodology, even large cities don't need to spend millions to map their networks. We have already mapped two more cities and will be releasing data for South Africa's major metros this year. And that's just the beginning: we're excited by the potential for cities across Africa."

Cape Town is the first fully-mapped city in the platform, and will be followed by East London, and Gaborone, Botswana in March. WhereIsMyTransport says it will continue collecting taxi network data in SA's major cities, including Port Elizabeth, Durban, Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, and Bloemfontein, all due to be complete by mid-2017.

The company is in discussion with cities and local partners with the intention of fully mapping 20 African cities by the end of 2018. It already holds data on informally-run networks in Accra, Ghana, and Nairobi, Kenya.

"We believe the information challenge in South African cities undermines our infrastructure," says Graeme Leighton, data collection co-ordinator for WhereIsMyTransport. "We want to make the systems that exist more accessible for everyone. In Cape Town, every assumption we had about the network was challenged. We discovered dozens of previously unknown routes, and found many documented routes no longer operated."

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