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Mapping the routes to improve the collective transportation in Lebanon

Jad and Chadi are two Lebanese passionate about public transport. They are experienced bus riders in Beirut, a city where the traffic is a daily issue raising commuters stress levels, especially during rush hour. As of today, the buses' routes in Beirut are not clear or widely understood. This is why Jad and Chadi, together with the support of a group of volunteers, are working to map these routes through collective action within their growing initiative Bus Map Project.

In Beirut, the traffic is crazy. Being stuck in the traffic every day is not an experience that people like going through. However, in Lebanese roads, few would give up their cars to use a bus to get around. What might be the reasons behind this? One of the factors might be that the public transportation in Lebanon is confusing and unregulated. According to a study led by urban planner Petra Samaha during her studies at the American University of Beirut, around 80% of daily trips in the Beirut and Greater Beirut areas today are made in private cars, and less than 2% in buses.

There is lack of interest in public transport in large segments of society and an urgent need to rethink traditional approaches to transit advocacy explains Chadi Faraj, one of the founders of the Bus Map Project. Maps of indispensable bus and van lines in Greater Beirut and in the rest of the country are slowly becoming available thanks to that growing initiative. This is only a first step to understand collective transportation in the territory and try to improve it, explains a regular bus user and volunteer with the Bus Map Project, Dounia Salame. Increasing the use of the public transportation system decreases traffic and pollution too, adds Chadi.

On the short-to-medium term, the Bus Map Project will focus on helping non-users to understand the transport system. On the long-term vision, it will build up an association of bus riders who are conscious of and devoted to fight for the rights of the riders. This online portal will give access to transit data usually provided by governments or service providers to encourage general public to use public transport. In turn, more riders mean more investment, catalyzing improvements that in turn attract more users of public transport explains Jad.

Chadi Faraj and Jad Baaklini met in the spring of 2015. Jad was writing an article on small-scale transport initiatives in Lebanon. He contacted Chadi, a software developer who had already developed in 2008 an application called LebanonBuses.com, at a time when the issue of public transport in Beirut was simply not addressed. During that initial meeting, Jad and Chadi agreed on working together, and so they began a project with the aim of raising awareness of existing transit options by mapping van and bus routes. Specifically, they sharpened the focus of the initiative in order to make the existing system more legible and attractive to non-users. Launching a grassroots’ awareness-raising and data-collecting campaign has been another objective too.

In their Facebook Page you can read ¨Change can't wait for perfect solutions—help us map Lebanon's informal transit to break out of our car habit today!¨. This is exactly what Chadi and Jad are promoting with that initiative. Since then, Bus Map Project has worked to promote the idea of collective mapping while developing 'prototypes' that capture the imagination and attract more interest in public transport. Examples include collaboration with design students at the Lebanese International University, a Collective Photo Action coordinated by the social media platform and photography tool FRAME Beirut, and an accompanying print map of major bus and van routes in Beirut. With a network of friends and allies, the team has also taken part in conferences in a wide variety of subject areas (e.g. local governance, grassroots design, rural tourism, mobile technology, etc.), to help connect their initiative and the ideas behind it with other vital conversations in and around the city.

SwitchMed Programme gave us the technical and organizational support for the development of the project, allowing us moving from an idea to an impact story. In addition, our initiative was presented to an international audience during SwitchMed Connect 2016, in which we clearly shown that grassroots solutions are building built¨

Jadi explained that ¨we want to spread a positive image of collective transportation in Lebanon. “The mapping tool is just an opening for a needed change in activism. We need to advocate from the point of view of a bus rider". Therefore, they are in the process of registering their own NGO, the Riders’ Rights Association.

Further information: www.busmap.me; Facebook.com/BusMapProject; Twitter.com/BusMapProject

Source: some information has been extracted from the following link http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/07/lebanon-traffic-map-bus-public-transportation.html#ixzz4fB2tOHfc