Cairo takes to crowdsourcing to tackle traffic


With the revolution over, Cairo citizens are banding together through social media to take on a new challenge -- the city's notoriously terrible traffic. Egypt-based company Bey2ollak has devised a smartphone app that connects users to report on the latest traffic conditions throughout Cairo.

In a city where getting from Point A to Point B may easily take 2 hours, Bey2ollak (an Arabic term that roughly translates to "word on the street") is a welcome resource to avoid the most heavily congested roads. And road users aren't the only ones taken with the new app; Bey2ollak was recently awarded first prize in a Google-sponsored competition that sought out Egypt's best start-up enterprises.

The functionality of the app is simple, which has likely contributed to its success. Users can post updates through the app to let others know how light or heavy traffic is along a certain route, and they can check the most recent posts for a certain corridor before or during travel.

Not only can these features make travel easier for individual road users, but they may also help to mitigate or even reduce traffic congestion along some streets. Those stuck in traffic may use the app to re-route to a less congested road, and drivers who have not started their trip may check the app in advance to avoid traffic altogether. The app can essentially help to spread traffic out throughout the city rather than having it concentrated along a few over-used corridors. Users may also decide to delay certain trips, such as running errands or other non-work trips, if traffic conditions are very poor.

Perhaps the most important influence of the Bey2ollak app is its potential to reduce the total number of motorized trips taken within Cairo, thereby reducing overall congestion. Those who see in advance how bad the roads are may weigh the decision to travel more carefully and may simply decide to stay at home or take a shorter trip by foot or bike. In this way, Bey2ollak and other traffic alert apps may provide unanticipated congestion mitigation benefits to urban areas in addition to the intended time savings benefits to individual users.

~ Allison Bullock

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