Funded! This project was successfully funded on January 11, 2013.

Update #7

Maps and Totes are Ready!

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Dear backers, Happy summer! Hope this message finds you relaxed, tan and smiling wherever you are.

We are smiling here because we finally have your maps (and totes) ready to ship! To make sure we get them to you, please be sure to answer the backers survey that popped into your inbox last night, so we can start getting these in your hands. You will find a little more info about the story of each product below.

Albert
on behalf of the Urban Launchpad team

PS. The digital version of the map is now available via www.urbanlaunchpad.org/alpha/welcome.

PPS. For our amazing supporters who sponsored a large format map and / or bus signage, we are working on them! In fact, Stephen has exciting news to share about that in the near future. One immediate piece of feedback we received from our team in Dhaka on signage was that it sounded great but that in many instances, the buses don’t actually stop at a fixed place. Riders board whenever the buses is moving slow enough for them to hop on even if it is in the middle of the road.

BUS MAPS: With the print run of bus maps here in the US for the Kickstarter supporters, we took the opportunity to push the production materials and methods even further. That’s why this edition of the bus map took us awhile, even after the launch of the first run in Dhaka. For this version of the map, we decided to use Tyvek, the same material used for other real maps, home insulation wrapping, and envelopes, to make them far more durable. We had to source a more boutique printer in San Francisco who would be willing to print on this less traditional material (props to one of our Kickstarter supporters and fellow map-makers, Eric, for pointing us in the right direction!). Now, the maps are finally folded and ready to be shipped out! We’ll be translating these production learnings into the next, larger run of the bus maps on the ground in Dhaka.

RICKSHAW TOTES: These totes were designed by Stephen Kennedy, manufactured by a responsible supplier in Dhaka (we met the owner and visited the factory) and hand dyed by us back in the US.

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Update #6

Distributing 5,000 Paper Maps in Dhaka

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Dear backers,

Happy beginning of summer!

Sorry again for time between our updates but we are quickly learning that the work of building open infostructures in places like Dhaka takes time to ensure its success. We have been erring on the side of caution and working with our local partners to quietly let the word out in Dhaka since we were not sure how the official authorities - the local government and bus operators - would react. After a couple small public presentations by our local partner, we received word that the local government was supportive of our collective initiative.

Of course, distributing paper maps in a city as bustling and unpredictable as Dhaka was also not as easy as we first imagined. Several of our attempts were paused due to hartals (city-wide strikes), political violence, the factory collapse just outside the city in Savar (which you can take a bus to from Dhaka), and an impending cyclone which threatened but fortunately spared Dhaka.

Today, though, we are thrilled to announce that as we speak, those 5,000 maps that you helped sponsor are getting into the hands of locals in Dhaka (which means soon you will get your copy too). If you can’t wait, you can sign up to join our flock at www.urbanlaunchpad.org/alpha and download the digital copy as well as be a fan of our Facebook page, which is where we will announce our updates to our supporters in Bangladesh.

This is fortunately not the end of our updates - in fact, we hope it is just the beginning. We have been approached by local organizations to sponsor the second version of the map and are scheduled to return to Dhaka to join our growing flock there to create a map that this time will hopefully be up to 95% correct. We are also working on an exciting initiative in Dhaka that we hope to tell you more about when we can.

Until then, please enjoy the pictures, let us know what you think and thanks again for your encouragement and support!

Albert

on behalf of the Urban Launchpad team


Update #5

Designing Dhaka’s Bus Map

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Dear backers,

Sorry it’s been so long since you’ve heard from us. We have been working hard trying to translate all the data that we collected into something simple to understand and excessively useful for bus riders in Dhaka. We started with the fairly complicated map of the bus lines - already clustered into fewer lines based on their general direction e.g. north-south, east-west and mapped topologically to the exact geographic coordinates of Dhaka. When we showed this prototype to our partners, they quickly and strongly told us that we needed to make something simpler, something more like a New York City subway map.

So we went back to work and came up with our almost-printable map below. Since we want to make sure this map works for our intended audience of bus riders in Dhaka, we are going to wait to hear from our on-the-ground print distribution before we show you the complete first version. We have been busy preparing for the soft launch in Dhaka for the next few weeks but there have been the usual hartals (city-wide protests that keep most people off the roads) and the unusual natural disasters (20 people died from a tornado southeast of Dhaka).

We did want to tell you a little more about this design itself, in case you had any feedback. First, we are calling this version alpha and being clear that this map is only 75% correct. We are opening a sign-up list to gather a local flock of evangelists to help bring the map to 99% and to help us keep updating the map in the future, since the system is likely going to change.

Second, we moved toward a more diagrammatic rendition of the bus network that would primarily display the entirety of the system in relation to the key locations in the city, as opposed to geographic accuracy. (Eddie Jabbour, designer of the NYC Kickmap, has a great read on the differences between topographic and diagrammatic versions of the New York City subway map).We did do some mental map experiments in Dhaka and tried to mimic a bit of how people from Dhaka saw their city (thanks Kevin Lynch from MIT!). Based on these mental maps, the team felt that topographic accuracy was less important, and people would understand the system more clearly based on labeled location names. A diagrammatic approach provided far more flexibility in terms of spacing lines and labels for readability.

Third, while we would’ve loved to use the official route numbers, we found that not every route had a number and those that did, rarely had them on the buses themselves so they were not always known to riders. Instead, we used roman numerals (instead of the Bangla numerals in which the official route numbers are listed) to re-number and re-cluster the system. This perhaps took us the longest but we are hoping this will make it easier for someone to quickly understand the many lines moving through the city.

Finally we, designed this map to print at A3 size (a little larger than a tabloid sized sheet) and be foldable so that it could be easily fit into one’s pocket.

We will keep you posted on how the initial distribution goes and thanks for all your patience and support! Right now, the Kewkradong team is busy translating all the English labels into Bangla and coordinating with the local printers.Once the initial launch happens in Dhaka, we can also begin to fulfill our supporter rewards for you all and begin concepting designs for the other elements of the bus infostructure so that they relate to the design of the bus map.

All the best,
Stephen, chief designer at the Urban Launchpad


Update #4

The Many Colors of Dhaka’s Buses

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Perhaps unlike your city, the buses in Dhaka are not run by just a few companies. At our latest count, there are at least 60 different bus companies that operate within Dhaka city itself (and many more that run out of the city as well). While they are extremely colorful and diverse in their services, from ticketing and queueing to crowding and comfort, they are pretty hard to tell apart since there is no coordination of colors or bus types that operate in different parts of the city. While there are supposedly official route numbers licensed by the government, they are rarely marked on the buses and consequently, confuse even the most frequent riders.

Fortunately, through the efforts of our team over the past couple of weeks, we put together our first working database of the different bus routes in the city (which we are keeping open for anyone to peruse and mash-up). Please note that this database is a work in progress - and we are looking for any feedback that you might have!

The next step is taking this first database of routes and presenting it in a clear and useful way for the many bus riders of Dhaka. We are hoping that with a lot of dedicated work from our team and a bit of luck, we can get a “first print” ready in the next couple of weeks.

Being in Dhaka has helped to remind us that this map is by no means the solution to sustainable transport for this vibrant and rapidly growing metropolis - rather it is one of what we think are thousands, if not millions, of little strokes that can make the alternative transport experience a bit better. For a look at what this means, please see these videos of alighting from a moving bus in a popular textile market  area called New Market and of crossing a giant pedestrian bridge to our office (something that may have saved our lives several times)

Salam,
Albert, on behalf of the Urban Launchpad team


Update #3

Dhonnobad die choto korbo na.

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This Bangladeshi phrase translates to something along the lines of "I don't want to shame you by thanking you, because it is not enough..." We definitely feel that a mere thank you is not enough to express our gratitude for the incredible contributions that 506 of you have made.

The team at the Urban Launchpad has been truly humbled by the response to our project. In addition to far exceeding our initial funding expectations, we've received dozens of messages from y'all providing advice, feedback, collaboration, and support (even a contact that is developing a Bengali typeface, which will certainly be a huge help!).

Perhaps most exciting has been hearing stories from bus riders throughout the world, intrigued by what might be possible through the Flocksourcing process we've been developing. Citizens of Lahore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Maracaibo have even reached out for potential collaborations in their cities!

The development of this project will be ramping up over the next two weeks. Our MIT research partners Kuan and Elizabeth have been on the ground the past week, working with Kewkradong to continue gathering data on the city's key bus routes, assessing map literacy using different map typologies, and initiating an inventory of the buses and bus companies.

By tomorrow, we'll be joining them to finish gathering data on those routes, begin finalizing the maps for production and distribution, as well as begin prototypes of other elements of a full bus infostructure. With anything of this improbable nature in a city like Dhaka, something (and more likely, many things) may surprise us (like a hartal, or political protest, which makes it unsafe to be on the roads), so we have built some patience into the hundred little steps of safely making a bus map for Dhaka.

We'll continue to share updates via Kickstarter, especially once the map design is finalized and we've begun distribution. Stay tuned to our fieldwork antics and anecdotes via our Tumblr (Urban Launchblog) and twitter (@UrbanLaunchpad), and keep an eye out for our forthcoming messages regarding backer rewards.

Additionally, we'll be hosting the digital version of the bus map and datasets from our website, www.urbanlaunchpad.org, for public use.

Once more, thank you.
Stephen & Albert, on behalf of the Urban Launchpad team

PS, if you didn't catch it, Ben Schiller wrote a piece on FastCo.Exist about the project. Check out Building A Map For The Insane Public Transit Of Bangladesh


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    Join the Flock: (nominally!) be a part of our data collection crew, noted by a shout-out on the project page of our website.

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    Navigate Dhaka: We know you may never make it there yourself (everyone should try!), but receive your own copy of our map and put 10 paper maps on the ground in Dhaka.

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    Rickshaw Tote: Everyone should find a time in life to commute by Asia's favorite way to get around the city. At the very least, consider carrying one of our custom tote bags featuring a rickshaw icon designed by the Urban Launchpad and put 20 paper maps on the ground in Dhaka.. ( + all the prizes above )

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    Urban Lunchpad: if you're in the Boston area, we'll take you on a special lunch date with the Urban Launchpad team in our favorite culinary quarter of the city, Chinatown, and put 60 paper maps on the ground in Dhaka. ( + all the prizes above )

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    Large Format Printed Bus Map of Dhaka for you and a public location in Dhaka, and put 40 paper maps on the ground in Dhaka. ( + all the prizes above )

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    Bus decals for you and a bus line in Dhaka, and put 120 paper maps on the ground in Dhaka. ( + all the prizes above )

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    Bus stop signage for you and a stop in Dhaka, and put 360 paper maps on the ground in Dhaka. ( + all the prizes above )

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