busKW – Making Sense of Public Transportation

Post by Mark

Four guys have taken it upon themselves to try and make sense of the local public transportation system by mapping the bus network in Kuwait. Wilfred Waters, Jake Massoth, David Uzoni and Wael El-Ahmady are aiming to get complete stop positions, schedules and 360 imagery of the entire bus network in Kuwait and they’re pretty much on track.

According to Wil, the schedule data is the most frustrating aspect of the project due to lack of driver discipline. Drivers stop between formal stops so a proper schedule can’t be kept but they’re trying their best to get at least a rough estimate. In regards to imagery they’re halfway done (similar to google street view but for the bus routes) but they’re trying to prioritize the schedule data for now since thats the information people are after the most.

The overall problem they’re trying to solve with this project is unnecessary car trips, privately or in taxis. By collecting all this data, they’re hoping to eventually create a Bus Routing App that would provide people with easy to access and understand bus routes and scheduling information. And I think they’re onto something here.

Looking through their map data (embedded above) I was able to spot a number of bus stops near my apartment building as well as see the whole route the bus would take. Turns out the bus stop next to my apartment could take me all the way to my office in the city, and even though I wouldn’t take the bus (I love driving), I did consider it for a second. I’m sure a lot more people would use the bus if they had route and schedule information on their phones.

Back in the early 90s when I was in Canada, I used to call the bus stop near my apartment building and an automated service would let me know how many minutes till the next bus arrived. That way I didn’t have to wait out in -30°C weather freezing my ass off. Kuwait needs to upgrade the whole bus network and make it more usable, if you could track busses in Canada back in the early 90s, I’m sure Kuwait can manage the same today. Kuwait is hoping the metro project will help solve traffic issues but it might be easier right now to get the bus system sorted out right. How difficult would it be to tell drivers to let people on and off only at formal stops? Or to make sure bus stops are shaded, and to create an app that would help people plot their trips and get accurate scheduling information. I don’t think it would be that hard, easier than building a metro system from the ground up thats for sure.

For more information on the busKW project, check out their website [Here]

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29 comments, add your own...

  1. Dun says:

    I hope they aren’t doing this work for free, since the ultimate benefactors are the bus companies.

  2. Raz says:

    I’ve been taking the bus every week for one or two days.

    It saves the hassle of driving to work and also gives me time to take a nap

    They are clean enough and comfortable

    Plus the bus stops are literally right next to my house and my office

    On the cost side – a round trip from Salmiya to Kuwait would cost you 500fils to 600fils (if you take the Citybus Red you pay 300 fils for a ticket)

    If I park my car in a parking lot – that itself would cost me 550 fils for 8 hours or so PLUS the fuel costs.

    I am considering doing this every day of the week during the summer. Only put off is the lack of consistency of the bus timings.

  3. q80 says:

    Wow these guys are doing a great job!

    I hope they are not doing it for free, because this is something the bus companies should do!!

  4. meh says:

    I would totally use the bus just to play Nintendo Switch.

  5. Ipsom says:

    It speaks volumes when your having citizens doing what is supposed to be the job of the country…

    Bravo to the three men, and good luck

    • dun says:

      At least 3 of the 4 are not citizens (going by name). Although it goes without saying (but worth emphasizing), expats have a very tangible contribution to every aspect of this country.

      • Ipsom says:

        Yea ur right, I misspelled by accidentally… But come to think of it they are doing more help than some citizens in their spare time!

    • Wil says:

      Thanks very much, we really appreciate all the positive feedback!

  6. if they can convince the bus companies to add live tracking that would be great, actually if one of them is reading and thinks that he can approach them let them contact me, i did a whole research about a similar solution a while ago

    • Blueelephantintheshroom says:

      And see, another case in point w ref. to abundance of willing talent. ^ Plenty on this page alone; re:kuwait is another who has been consistently analyzing and proposing gems in terms of urban design ideas for YEARS (big fan). I’m always up for work towards improving the livability of this country!

      • Wil says:

        +1 for re:kuwait. Barak Al Babtain actually came to the Kuwait Mapping Meetup about public transport in Kuwait in 2013(?) that I organized and shared with us his plan for the metro. Ibrahim Al Dashti was also in attendance and told us about his passion for the bus network. There are many people here who are passionate about public transport. We need to start expressing that passion fully. In an app.

    • Wil says:

      Hi Ahmed,

      Thanks very much for your offer.

      Please email takethebuskw@gmail.com.


  7. Sonia says:

    If this is done correctly, the traffic issue in Kuwait can be reduced to a great extend. This is the kind of initiative govt should undertake, not stop issuing driving license to expats.

  8. Blueelephantintheshroom says:

    THANK YOU! To the guys doing this. Training the drivers to follow basic protocols like stopping at bus stops, actually stopping for passengers and not just slowly driving as they embark/get off, driving right, etc. are a few of the other strategic things the bus authorities can start working on. If resources are what they lack, I’m sure we can find willing and capable people in abundance- look at the amazing voluntary work these guys are putting in itself!

    • Wil says:

      Thanks for the feedback :-) We all really appreciate it. We were pretty pumped at our team meeting yesterday because of this article and all the positive feedback.

  9. jm says:

    most of these buses have free wifi and its quite fast

    • Wil says:

      Yes, and if only they had real time GPS tracking shown on an app for everyone. At least, with this tracking, a schedule would be less necessary as one would be able to estimate oneself from the app when the bus would arrive.

  10. djelo says:

    Guys. The buses cater to a clientele that don’t have access to the 5 billion options you do. They are a culture of their own, and really they’ve functioned remarkably well since the 80s when I started using them.

    If you are going to insist on things like training and buses that run according to schedule then why not champion pay increases as well? You want great service for slave wages? These people get paid shit – and on top of that, if you’re going to introduce new rules, just remember you are making an entire sector of society’s life harder.

    • Wil says:

      Whilst I appreciate the sentiment that the less fortunate should be looked after, we are not advocating for fare increases. We are advocating for the people with, as you say, 5 billion options to use the option of taking the bus instead of unnecessary car trips. They are unnecessary when the bus will suffice. The only thing missing is an information product the remove the awareness gap.

      Once there is awareness, congestion, traffic fatalities, stress and pollution will reduce dramatically. Kuwait will be a better place.

      You’re welcome :-) And glad to hear you’ve been taking the buses already for the past 30 years. Feel free to share some pics of them with us on Instagram via #takethebuskw

  11. aaa says:

    There’s also a bit of passenger awareness involved – I’ve seen passengers get off at a bus stop and then cross a highway when there’s a perfectly good walkway that goes above the highway to use and putting themselves and the cars trying to avoid them at risk

  12. Bryn Barnard says:

    I love public transportation and loathe car commuting. So I applaud Jake et al’s project to bring Kuwait bus transportation into the 21th century. But that is just step one.

    During my five years in Kuwait I rode the public bus nearly every day from Medan Hawally to Salmiya and downtown. It’s one of those systems that are mostly ignored and hardly ever used by citizens, but it make it possible for those who serve them to get around. Consequently, buses and busstops were – to put it mildly – less than what one would expect for one of the richest nations of the planet.

    I now live in Korea, where, since traffic is nearly as clogged and soul-destroying as in Kuwait – everyone, rich and poor, citizen and immigrant, rides the bus and underground. Since traffic makes scheduled stops impossible, every bus has a transponder and every busstop a digital route list, with the minutes, in real time, that your bus will arrive. There are multiple phone apps that inform bus passengers, in real time, when their bus will arrive as well. No tickets: everyone pays automatically with cash or credit card. The metro, since it runs beneath traffic runs a predictable schedule. Getting to the airport here can take an hour or three hours depending on traffic. The subway is always an hour and a half. Subway stations are clean and full of interesting shops, art, and cultural life. Bus stands are protected from the weather, maintained and clean.

    But Korea has nothing on Singapore where the superclean buses adhere to a schedule and immaculate subways are all driverless and automated with polite attendants and superfast escalators to ensure everyone gets off and on quickly and efficiently. In both countries, people line up politely to allow passengers to get off before they get one. Both started out poorer than Kuwait, with few natural resources. Both still have per capita income a fraction of Kuwait. But they’ve both made riding public transportation a joy and a justifiable source of pride. Come on Kuwait, get it together. You have the money. You just need the will.

  13. Ivan says:

    that’s awesome,

    also integrating it to google maps would be a huge plus,

    keep up the great work

  14. I have used buses when i was between 10 and 17 years old like 5 times a week ,back then they were very unpredictable in timing i remember waiting for an hour for 101 route in Alqusoor to go to Alfarwaniya or switch to 38 to go to alrehab mall and play warcraft 3 , i remember them being old uncomfortable , noisy with no AC .
    But now i see newer ones and i noticed a new orange buses called Mowasalat is it a new company that can promote competition ?
    i would take a bus to work if it was predictable clean and with subscription model like the ones i used in London i grew bored of driving i prefer to read something or watch Youtube on my way to work instead of staring at the 6th ring road for any sudden traffic stop .
    I always loved using public transport abroad i hope the one in kuwait gets better in quality and provide better routes .
    looking at the routes map how can you promote the bus usage if there are no routes in many residential regions like qurtoba ishbiliya Rehab and Alzahra ?

  15. David Rempel says:

    This is an important project, and I am proud to say I know Jake Massoth, one of the young men who developed this idea. I talked with him a few months ago and was excited to hear about his project and his dedication to making this system work for people.

    The Kuwait bus system is actually very reliable and although drivers do make unscheduled stops, there are usually enough busses that you will not wait long. Taking the bus is much more pleasant than taking a taxi in kuwait. The taxis are often dirty and have no seat belts. Many Kuwait taxi drivers are unprofessional, lacking in knowledge about Kuwait, and quite often rude. We have had many drivers try to get ridiculous amounts of money from us, either by driving the wrong way, begging, or even threatening us. Friends have been sexually harassed and racially-offended. In stark contrast, the bus is a welcoming, friendly place where men will immediately give up their seat for a woman or even a man if he has a child. If the place you need to go is on a bus route, it is definitely worth taking the bus instead of a taxi.

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