Like the Digital Matatus Project in Nairobi, this mapping project run by Mapatón CDMX used smartphone-based GPS tools to allow drivers in the peseros informal transit system to input route data to a system-wide database. Event organizers also associated prizes with the collection of route data, and used the point-calculation system to encourage data collection in areas with low smartphone usage. The city government has been an enthusiastic partner in this project, and as of last year was working to release a trip planning app that included this peseros data.
Read more on <a href=”https://www.fastcoexist.com/3058475/mapping-mexico-citys-vast-informal-transit-system”>Fast CoExist</a>.
New York City: Chinese Dollar Buses
Jitney minibuses in New York City are permitted by the city and formally prohibited from stopping at any bus stop used by MTA, the public transit system. Many unlicensed, illegal vans still operate in the same manner as their licensed counterparts. Though informal networks likely existed prior, the formalization occurred in response to a citywide transit strike in the 1980s. The vans also continued to operate in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when the city’s transit service service shut down. As with many informal services, their territory primarily serves immigrant communities in areas without traditional transit service, sometimes directly replacing service (as with the Edenwald line in the Bronx).
Read more in <a href=”http://projects.newyorker.com/story/nyc-dollar-vans/”>The New Yorker</a> (includes interactive system map).
Relevance for Refugee Development
Though neither project explicitly focuses on serving the needs of refugees, they demonstrate the potential for cities to support informal economies as a means of ensuring that transportation services cover otherwise under-served communities. With city buy-in, permitting and route-data-integration programs like these could create economic opportunities for drivers from refugee communities and provide much-needed transit service to the communities they live in.