hackproject.org — Inform the puzzled, call for a public vehicle information system — {July, 2016}

People explain their owes in public transportation’s lack of information

Bivav, a student, travels by public transportation most of time. Though most people just sit quietly in the vehicle, Bivav finds a lot of people who ask questions “Where are we right now?”, “What direction to go to reach a specific location?”. There are many people, specially old and people that have just come from outside to Kathmandu, who tell him to inform them when a certain location is reached.

“Where are we right now?”, “What direction to go to reach a specific location?”

Public transportation in Kathmandu, and Nepal in general, do not have public announcement or display systems built into them. Most either rely on the conductor shouting out locations or asking fellow passengers to inform them regarding location and direction. As more and more people use public transportation and vehicles get more and more crowded it become harder and harder to know about location and direction.

Public announcement system or display systems are slowly coming to public transportation here. Municipality announced that the buses they run will have such system already built in. Taxis, at the higher end, are also working towards getting such systems. But over 90% of all public vehicles are owned by small and medium scale private owners. Most of them buy vehicles using loans and borrowed money. So vehicles are derived of all frills or things that are deemed unnecessary. As they control the roads, they do not feel the necessity to have a public announcement system.

About 32% of Kathmandu’s population regularly use the public transportation system while another 40% (who are categorized as regular walkers) frequently use the system. This amounts to a whopping 4 million confused passengers trying to look out the window to find out where they currently are.

Since Bivav has nothing to do while traveling, he either fiddles around with his mobile phone or looks around to see what sort of phones other carry. Most carry feature phone or low end smart phones. Most don’t know how to use other applications except for phone call and occasional sms. The youngsters use a lot of apps, but the Internet is very intermittent on the public transportation. Bivav says he tries to find location and direction using google maps or openstreet maps. Though both provide good location services, many places are missing and/or not tagged. Openstreet maps, he says, also has bus routes, but recently the routes have changed due to construction of new roads. He feels they are not reliable enough. Also most fellow passengers don’t know how to use these services.

Bivav has talked to a lot of passengers and drivers regarding the information display and announcement systems.

Drivers say that they have been shown a lot of systems, but most of them are too costly for their everyday use. They say they have seen the service that is offered in Sajha Yatayat of the municipality where TVs have been installed. Some of the micro-buses also have TVs installed, but they only display commercial and social advertisements. They would also want to have a system like that in their vehicles, but it needs to be cheap and easily installable. Drivers feel they would be happy to use such a system as this would help their passengers a lot.

Passengers, when asked, begin smiling as they remember times when they got off at wrong bus stops to taking a wrong bus and going in a different direction then they had intended to. Sudip Pant, a passenger that Bivav talked to informed about just that morning he had to go to Tangal. On the bus he started reading a book and got engrossed in it. No one informed him about the bus stop and he had to get off at Baluwater, which is about 2 kilometers away from the stop that he wanted to get off at. He also mentioned that this happened quite often specially while reading a book or checking something on the mobile. Another lady, name not mentioned, talked about how she repeatedly got off at wrong bus stops as she had to rely on fellow passengers informing her about her stop. She also complained about the buses being too crowded to look out the window to see where she was.

Stories like that of Sudip and the lady abound. All feel if there was a public announcement and display system for locations and directions that would make their lives so much simpler while traveling in public transport. Sudip, who is also an engineering student, feels that such systems should be easily made and could come at the cheap rate.

Bivav is a technology enthusiast and has used raspberry pi and arduino before. He feels that simple, cheap and reliable technology could be created using them along with other peripherals. He questions “Why haven’t engineering students and IT companies tried this?” GPS, GSM and long range wifi are all available in Kathmandu. Reasonably good maps exist in Google maps as well as in OpenStreet maps. Bus routes are available from Department of Transport and the Bus Professionals Association. LED displays are available for cheap in Kathmandu market as well as Digital TVs, coming in from China, are now available for unthought off rates. Bivav feels there must be a way to combine all these technologies and tools that will fit within the budget of the public buses as well as be of big help to the passengers.

Such system would help the lives of public transport users not only in Kathmandu, but in whole of Nepal.

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