Making the Invisible Visible in Mexico City

Mexico City Metro

You may not have known that Mexico City, home to Latin America’s largest and oldest metro system, also boasts an extensive network of informal modes — known locally as colectivos — that has more than ten times as many routes. If you didn’t know that, you’re not alone — until 2018, no one in the world did.

That’s because no one had mapped all 2,000+ routes in the network. The system exists entirely organically, run by independent private operators.

Mexico City is one of the Majority-World megacities where WhereIsMyTransport offers accurate and reliable mobility data from the complete public transport network. This process makes the invisible visible, as Tech for Good shared in their recent profile of our company.

Over two billion people who live in emerging-market cities rely on public transport to get to work, get food on the table, and live a fulfilling life. Like Mexico City, most of these cities have large transport networks offering a frequent service. What’s lacking is information.

Without information, travellers can’t see how one route connects to another; when they need to go somewhere new, they rely on word-of-mouth, often wasting time taking inefficient routes. Better public transport information can make individuals’ lives easier and spur economic and social growth.

Our work at WhereIsMyTransport goes beyond mapping routes. We have built custom software that allows us to build comprehensive datasets, including vehicle frequencies, fares, and station maps.

We follow the global standard of General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) files — used by public authorities and technology companies all over the world — and have developed new GTFS extensions specifically to capture the unique operational nature and ground truth of mobility networks in emerging-market cities.

We believe that combining local insight with cutting-edge technology helps people do good. Local teams lead our data-collection efforts. Our global technology teams equip them with custom tools, such as our proprietary data collection software, training them in the working methods we deploy to ensure accuracy and reliability in our mobility data offering.

Informal public transport networks change constantly, which is why we maintain local teams on the ground, tracking changes and keeping datasets current. In this way, we build long-lasting partnerships with cities, from governments to transport operators, in service to the community.

As our Devin de Vries, our CEO, says in our Tech for Good profile, “We want to ensure that all society experiences freedom of movement, regardless of income brackets and social status. We want people to access the things that make their lives whole: being able to participate in the community, being able to prosper by having access to opportunities.”

Stories about data, mobility and Majority-World megacities.

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