Making Public Transportation More Accessible with Technology

December 19, 2022

Author: UNDP Mongolia Accelerator Lab

A good public transportation system is the backbone of any well-functioning city. It not only benefits the city and residents with its profound environmental benefits but also brings much-needed comfort and convenience to the residents who otherwise would have used their private vehicles crowding the roads and polluting the environment.

According to the survey conducted by UNDP Mongolia Accelerator Lab, despite having a dedicated bus system, only 27% of the Erdenet population, the second-largest metropolitan city in Mongolia, used the services in 2021. Common barriers included bus stops being too far apart and not accessible, drivers skipping stops, and inconveniences including cash-only payment, short working hours, and irregular schedules. So, people increasingly prefer using their private vehicles within the city crowding roads and creating rush hour traffic jams.

These results spoke for themselves. To persuade more Erdenet residents to take buses, Erdenet authorities needed to create a safe, reliable, accessible, affordable, and convenient system. Based on the UNDP Mongolia survey results and stakeholder discussions, Accelerator Lab decided to support the local authorities to make Erdene buses convenient and accessible to residents as part of the broader effort to support the local government’s effort to modernize and upgrade the existing transportation system with smart technology.

As any major equipment upgrade and management improvement would require significant investment and time, we focused on improving the user experience by providing citizens with real-time location information within our experimental scope.

Through a partnership with the local government and the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST) IT team, Accelerator Lab developed a bus mobility application that makes the bus system accessible and convenient, thus, increasing bus ridership. Led by Dr. Zolzaya Dashdorj, an experienced IT specialist who worked at Senseable Cities Lab at MIT, the team finalized and launched the application in the summer of 2022.

The application was designed to enable and empower riders to make an informed decision on their bus rides through the following features:

  • Real-time bus location information as well as projected schedule
  • Location-based search and bus stop-based search
  • Multiple bus route options in both map-based and listed view (fastest, shortest walk, least transfer)
  • Walking distance, the number of stops, and the time information

Without aligning all aspects of the bus transportation system, any upgrade could fail. So, we sought out coordination from the inception and the process enabled new partnerships and collaboration. The application development and its elements are aligned with other ongoing bus transportation improvements in Erdenet.

The MUST team and Accelerator Lab engaged with SEM LLC, a tech company in charge of introducing a digital bus payment system in Erdenet. This process enabled both parties to expand their scope beyond their usual work and cross-learning from their approaches. Furthermore, application management and upgrading will be coordinated between the local government and developers allowing for more sustainable and long-term operation of the application.

Though it has a limited scope and experimental nature, the project delivered an effective digital tool to the Erdenet residents and enabled new partnerships and collaboration with a research institute, the public sector, and a private company.

The process of creating a digital product as a public service requires careful coordination of various stakeholders without losing the public as the priority and the main beneficiary.  We are hopeful that the new collaboration of the key stakeholders combined with further analysis and development of the application will play a key role in creating a safe, reliable, accessible, affordable, and convenient transportation system for Erdenet residents.           

App on Apple Store:

App on Play Store: