Understanding the supply and demand of transport is often a challenge in the development world. Data gaps and institutional weaknesses require a creative approach when one attempts to capture residents’ mobility (see previous blog). The World Bank transport team has been conducting an urban mobility study intending to map out the ins-and-outs of mobility in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second-largest city. In Fragile and Conflict-affected Situations (FCS) such as Haiti, data collection and capacity building are two sides of the same coin. Owing to a lack of regulatory oversight of the transportation sector, digital and disruptive solutions have proved very useful. This is even more the case in the COVID context where remote supervision has become the modus operandi. Thanks to the use of new technologies, the World Bank has been able to help countries overcome these shortages and capture the fundamental aspects of mobility. What are the solutions of transport available? How are they structured? How do residents move? How is the city spatially organized? What improvements should be prioritized?
Although World Bank and public data on urban mobility already existed in Haiti, we realized we were still missing a big part of the picture. Traditional approaches had failed to capture the mobility patterns of the poorest and most vulnerable residents who never use transportation services. An innovative approach was needed to address those data gaps. Therefore, the methodology relied on a mix of traditional and non-traditional data collection means. For instance, visualizing the traffic count of passenger and commercial vehicles on the roads through satellite data or determining accessibility to economic opportunities for residents with a tailored Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis through a blend of datasets.
However, these data outputs only provided a general understanding of mobility behaviors. We wanted to get to the next mile by producing a detailed overview of inhabitants’ transportation patterns and measuring traffic congestion levels in specific areas. Thanks to mobile-based applications and drones, we were able to achieve this objective. These solutions did not only enrich our understanding of the city but opened up a new range of possibilities. It was achieved with the support of several digital startups:
The South-African startup WIMT, supplied an application that was used to draw the first-ever General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) maps of Tap Taps. Using local surveyors, the application identified stops along the main routes with their associated transit schedules (see map below). The methodology was inspired by the successful World Bank experience in Freetown which overcame similar challenges. It proved to be a major milestone of our urban mobility study and provided the opportunity to undertake additional data collection activities along these main routes. These maps were of particular interest to national and local authorities. Our intention is to repeat this positive experience in Port-au-Prince.
- An algorithm provided by the company Data From Sky analyzed drone videos monitoring the traffic of the most congested areas of the city. This tool proved to be complementary to the traffic count analysis through satellite data. It brought a more detailed and reliable understanding of traffic flows in the selected areas.
- Finally, Mobile-Market-Monitor designed an application to conduct an Origin-Destination survey. By monitoring the mobility of over 500 households one can expect a unique visualization of residents’ mobility. While the application is finalized, the survey is still ongoing. The outcomes of the survey will be the bedrock of this study to address the shortages of the existing transportation network and consider solutions in line with the population’s needs.
The final urban mobility study is yet to be finalized but one can already share several key learnings. The maps drawn from our GIS analysis shed new light on our understanding of the population’s accessibility and distribution in the metropolitan area of Cap-Haïtien. The unique combination of GTFS and existing population data allowed us to draw compelling accessibility knowledge. As an example, while 84% of the population lives within 30-minute of a Tap Taps stop in Cap-Haïtien, this number falls to 61% when considering the metropolitan area. This observation provides for the first time a measure of the extent of spatial fragmentation. Combined with other maps such as on flood resilience or accessibility to essential services, one can identify connectivity improvements in the road infrastructure to address urban accessibility. Besides, an analysis of the poverty distribution in Cap-Haïtien emphasized the correlation between poverty and low access to Tap Taps. 9.5% of the poorest residents live more than 30 minutes away from a Tap Taps stop against 2.7% for the higher incomes. Although walking is the main mode of transportation, it also brings to attention the necessity to provide equal and affordable access to public transportation disregarding revenue levels.
The final phase of our study is near and the conclusions will greatly support the Haitian Government and the Municipality in designing future policy and transportation investments. Although this tailored methodology makes the upcoming report of particular interest, one should also note that several challenges had to be overcome. The number of stakeholders involved did increase the complexity of our task, especially in the context of the COVID pandemic and political instability. This dimension must be integrated into the planning of the study. We hope we will get the opportunity to design future urban mobility studies based on this experience. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months!
The Urban Mobility Study for Cap-Haïtien is being financed in part by the Quality of Infrastructure Investment Fund.