Trufi to Map Public Transport in Mauritania’s Capital

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Nouakchott, Mauritania - Mapping Mauritania

With funding from the World Bank and a team of Mauritanian locals, Trufi will create the first thorough public transport map of Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital, along with on-the-ground photos of transportation infrastructure.

In Nouakchott, if you want to find your way by public transport there is no accurate map, no app, no website. Not even the government knows all of the bus routes; no entity in Nouakchott keeps track of all the formal and informal transport routes, and none of the buses run on a fixed schedule.

Nouakchott Bus
An over-capacity public transport minibus in Nouakchott, Mauritania
Photo: Bertramz (CC BY-SA 3.0)

For someone planning a public transport journey, the best bet is to go to the intersection of Ave Abdel Nasser and Ave John Kennedy in the heart of the city – better known as Carrefour BMD – and ask around. The 100 or more bus routes through the city are managed only in the collective memories of the drivers, loaders, and merchants who work in Carrefour BMD.

“It’s like the local GPS,” said Jérémie Perales, CEO of Daba’Go, a mobility app company specializing in Africa, and Trufi’s regional manager for the Nouakchott project. “You go to BMD, you tell them where you want to go, and they explain to you which buses and taxis you need to take.”

Carrefour BMD
Photo: Mouhamed Lemine

Impressive as it is, the hive of knowledge humming at Carrefour BMD only helps travelers get to where they’re going. It does not generate any data that can be used to inform infrastructure planning and investments, or economic development.

The routes tracked, and the data collected by Trufi will provide officials with valuable insights that can be turned into informed action to improve life in Nouakchott. The data will also be published on OpenStreetMap and other open data platforms.

Local Mappers, Worldwide Managers

The local team will be trained remotely, and managed remotely by Trufi, with project managers in Morocco and Germany, and with support from mapping experts in Bolivia, Ghana, and other countries where Trufi has a footprint. Trufi will work with members of the OpenStreetMap community in Nouakchott and other interested route trackers.

To undertake the mapping, the local team will use relatively simple tools: A basic smartphone with a minimum-quality camera and GPS. They will not need a data connection to conduct the mapping. The photos and mapping data will be collected offline with smartphone software selected by Trufi, and uploaded later by Wi-Fi from the trackers home, work, a cybercafe, or a co-working space provide by a Trufi partner.

The street-level images and map data will be analyzed by Mapillary, a platform that uses Artificial Intelligence to detect and plot objects such as lane markings, mailboxes, trash cans, traffic lights, and manholes.

It is not yet known how many routes will be tracked. “If we talk about only formal bus lines, there are only 12,” said Perales. “But we know there are lots of informal bus lines, and different forms of transport like minibuses. Some are formal, not all are informal.” And they don’t work like a classic bus, with fixed schedules and stops. “We estimate 100 routes will have to be mapped.”

Perales expects that the route tracking will begin by the middle of March, and be completed by the end of April, this year.

OpenStreetMap Screenshot
Route tracking in Nouakchott with OpenStreetMap and a smartphone mounted to the dashboard.
Photo: OSM Mauritania

“Exponential Impact”

Having a thoroughly-mapped public transport system will help decision makers organize and optimize the system for the needs of the people. “We already have feedback from local people who say the needs of the people are not coordinated with the public transport network,” said Perales.

The city will be able to invest more in transport when they can predict the impact of their investments and optimize costs. When people begin to use the public transport more and more due to improvements in services, the usage of private vehicles will go down.

“In Nouakchott, about 64 percent of the population with personal vehicles are willing to switch to public transport if the services improve,” said Perales.

“This will have an important impact on Nouakchott. The quality of the public transport experience will improve, fewer traffic jams, less pollution, and fewer accidents. The city will attract more and more people, more and more investors. It will be an exponential impact.”

Do You Want a to Help Trufi Map Nouakchott?

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2 thoughts on “Trufi to Map Public Transport in Mauritania’s Capital

  1. Pingback: Nouakchott’s First Interactive Public Transport Map(Mapping Mauritania: Part 1) - Trufi Association

  2. Pingback: Nouakchott’s First Interactive Public Transport Map - Ted Johnson

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