Focusing on Dhaka Sustainability : Traffic Alert, GO!Traffic, rastaRObosta

Sustainability and growth are interdependent subjects. As much as we depend on our utilities for an easier life, long term advancement in that life is only possible if sustainable usage is maintained in the process. Every matter we utilize or that creates our life, harnesses its energy from the environment. Likewise, every of our commutes and actions, in turn, bring changes to environmental balance. A person commuting is as regular as the wind passing through the atmosphere and as inevitable as breathing. If you are a Dhaka dweller, the characteristic in this action can be responsible for the change in the environmental balance and the reason, traffic congestion. Traffic alone is responsible for $3 billion loss per annum, with a staggering amount contributing to the environmental sector. Previous articles have discussed how much traffic has contributed and being a perfect reason for global warming. As such, the amount of times we face traffic everyday can itself tell how reversing an effect it has on each of our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.

Photo Courtesy: Traffic Alert
Photo Courtesy: Traffic Alert

For something as regular and minute-made as traffic in Dhaka city, the thought of reducing carbon footprint during this huge time and work consuming commute can only be adding to the frustration over our helplessness. In our last articles, 4Matters has been exploring the possibilities and potentials of a close-to-hand everyday utility that can encounter the traffic pollution problem as it comes, every time, while outsmarting the impossibilities and helplessness it presents to us.

In our attempt to bring out sustainability from our regular utilities the subject in focus in this case of discussion has been crowd-sourced, social media based traffic ‘groups’ and mobile phone traffic applications. With the social media connecting people from one place to another the power of information has increased ten folds. Traffic ‘Groups’ and ‘Apps’ drive themselves ( and apparently others!) harnessing this minutely changeable information. How efficiently this information is used calculates how much we can outsmart traffic in our everyday life-simultaneously, outsmarting the consequential pollution.

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In our last articles we introduced three of the most recent and modern platforms in Bangladesh: rastaRObosta, Traffic Alert and GO!Traffic that has been utilizing crowd-sourced and in certain cases, systematized, information on traffic conditions of the city to make it possible for people to work their way round it. In this case we present a comparative view of the three foremost platforms to better understand their operation and provide information that may help us utilize them better.

Three of the platforms started out as a Facebook group with Traffic Alert being the oldest, but GO!Traffic  being the first to advance themselves into initiating a traffic application for smart phones a few months ago-followed by rastaRObosta in the month of June 2015. Below are stated few subjects focusing on the differences and similarities in between the initiatives:

The Response Factor:

Though Traffic Alert does not have any applications as such, it is one of the oldest and most responsive group after GO!Traffic . With its strong number of group members (near 19000) Traffic Alert has more people to deliver the instantaneous know-how on traffic information. An observance of the groups make it clear that the response time of a traffic-related question asked can vary from two minutes to two hours in Traffic Alert. In case of rastaRObosta the response in some cases are fast but in most are delayed for hours in the group. Then again they have a traffic app that people can refer to for real time information on their own.  In case of GO!Traffic the response are instant in the Facebook group  and like rastaRObosta the app helps to deliver the present time view of the traffic.

The Data Sources :

While the inputs in Traffic Alert and rastaRObosta are by the people logged into the group or the app(in case of rastaRObosta), GO!Traffic harnesses its information from not only the Facebook group or inputs by app users, it has teams stationed at different points of the city to monitor the traffic conditions. Their updates are put in to the app as well.

The ‘User-Friendly’ Factor:

In between the two traffic apps, rastaRObosta and GO!Traffic, there is a difference in its usage method. A user of rastaRObosta would need to input his/her know-how on a traffic condition near him before he can see the conditions of elsewhere. In case of GO!Traffic the users can access the information of any road on the app as soon as they are logged in without any prior condition-based method to abide by. Both of the applications use color coded system to indicate the traffic conditions of the roads. Since Traffic Alert is a group on Facebook it s evidently needed for a user to be logged into their personal account and search the group for any information that might have been put regarding the traffic condition of the desired area. Users can even ask question regarding this and wait for it to be answered in due time.

How ‘Real-Time’ are the information?

Avoiding unnecessary fuel burns or the discomforts of inhaling deadly Suspended Particle Matters (as referred to in the previous articles) during the long stops in traffic depends a lot on how real-time the information are. If we are to plan our route avoiding traffic, the know-how of different traffic conditions on different streets of the city in that present time is extremely important. In case of Traffic Alert it depends on when the queries regarding traffic conditions are answered or ‘posted’ in the group. In case of rastaRObosata, the previous information is erased of an area as soon as an user updates the traffic situation of that area. According to GO!Traffic, the information has their own life span and even if there are no inputs from users, monitoring team may catch up on the condition of roads and update them.

The above information emphasizes the different characteristics of the initiatives that may help to work our way round one of the most common everyday mayhem. How efficiently each may be utilized to their best might bring a change to how successful we are in reducing our carbon footprint while beating Dhaka traffic with the click of technology and a sense of sustainability.

Photo Courtesy: Gobd Team
Photo Courtesy: Gobd Team

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