‘Taxi Map’ website promotes public transport in South Africa by mapping popular minibus routes
Submitted by: Nadia Shah, Wednesday, August 13, 2014
‘Taxi Map’ is a new website which details minibus taxi routes to and from places of interest within the metropolitan areas of Cape Town and Durban. The website was conceptualised by Abigail Knox and Andrew Kerr with the aim of improving the accessibility of urban public transport in South Africa. “Minibus taxis are by far the most common form of public transport in South Africa. Yet information on how to get around on minibus taxis is almost non-existent except by asking someone who may know,” explains Kerr. “Mapping and communicating the numerous minibus taxi routes and fares has been our intention since the beginning; how has been the challenge. A website seems like a logical place to start with sharing information,” adds Knox.
Knox further explains that the vision for the website is to empower existing commuters, and to attract new commuters. “For the first time TaxiMap provides new commuters with information on how, where and when certain taxis operate, but for existing commuters, web access and the cost of data is something we still need to overcome,” adds Knox.
The website uses Google Maps to plot more than 80 popular minibus taxi routes including routes to and from taxi ranks, tourist sites, universities and major shopping centres as well as commercial, industrial and residential areas. In addition, Taxi Map provides a synopsis of each route and useful information such as the departing and destination points, interesting sights along the route, hours of operation and the cost of the taxi fare. This information was collected mainly through Kerr’s and Knox’s first-hand experience of travelling on the route and communicating with people. “It's a slow process but one which really helped me to understand a lot about how taxis work. Most drivers were interested in the project and were happy to help. Other commuters were also very helpful,” said Kerr.
The website has been well received by the public and has gained the support of a number of taxi associations. It is currently in the first phase of development and only features routes for Durban and Cape Town. Kerr and Knox hope to add on routes for Johannesburg and other major South African cities in the future. Kerr explained that it made sense to first map the cities in which they live and that they need enthusiastic volunteers or funding to expand the website. Kerr and Knox encourage commuters to provide them with feedback and information to help improve the website, “Capetonians and Durbanites please tell us about routes that you know of that aren't on the site. Information about where the taxis on the route travel, the fare price and other information would be very helpful!” said Kerr.
Kerr compiled the information for the Cape Town routes while Knox focussed on the taxi routes in Durban. Knox explained that there was no formal selection process for which routes should feature on the website, “We have been manually mapping on foot and loading routes click by click, so any routes that we have taken or know of are mapped. There are many more to still map and update. In Cape Town, Andrew has tried to map all major routes from suburb to suburb. In Durban, most routes lead to the market or town. According to Kerr the routes to be included for Cape Town were decided based on a combination of personal interest for his own convenience and a desire to experience parts of the city which he had not previously visited. “I am amazed at how well the system works most of the time, although there are improvements that could be made,” said Kerr.
Kerr, an economist by profession and Knox, a sustainable energy consultant, both believe in the social and environmental benefits of promoting public transport. “The hope is that taximap.co.za can be a place where people can easily find information about minibuses and use them to get around rather than taking a car or a metered taxi. There are clear energy and pollution reduction benefits of getting people away from car usage. There are also other benefits- sitting in a car one never has a chance to meet or even just greet people like you do when taking public transport. I think the car user/public transport divide is another way rich and poor South Africans are so far away from each other,” said Kerr.
According to Knox, reducing pollution, congestion and saving money are obvious environmental and economic benefits of taking public transport, but better than all of these things is the opportunity to feel like you are a part of your city. Knox shares her experience, “When I first chased my way through Warwick Junction on the way to the Umhlanga Rocks Rank to catch the La Lucia taxi to work, the thousands of people going in every direction was overwhelming to say the least. But after a week or two, the flow of foot traffic was perfectly logical. I used to blog about my taxiing experiences. I have overheard ordinary people's extraordinary conversations and stories…Taking taxis is worth the effort, even if it is just to experience each other.”
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