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Mapping Out a City 5,000 Miles Away

Published: August 2, 2021

If you ever need to get around Mexicali, located in northern Mexico, feel free to ask Nicolás Saleme. He spent eight months helping to map out the public transportation system of the city and knows the place quite well. However, “Nico”, as Saleme is known by his friends and family, does not live in Mexicali, but is actually located 5,000 miles away in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.

This is an example of how the Mooviter Community goes beyond borders to help others explore their cities using public and shared transportation. Nico’s efforts leading a project that involved the contribution of more than 300 members of the Mooviter Community, was essential for Moovit to bring journey planning information for the first time to locals of Mexicali. The Mooviter Community is a passionate group of volunteers that has helped provide and maintain urban mobility information in over 70% of the cities where Moovit is available around the globe. The Community consists of more than 750,000 people from different countries, cultures and agencies but are all united in one common goal: simplifying urban mobility.

Nico joined the Community about three years ago after he found some outdated information on bus lines in his neighborhood just outside of Buenos Aires. He wanted to update the information and ensure it was correct in order to help other people in his town get around more easily from A to B. That action led him to the Mooviter Community. 

“I became an Ambassador in less than one year and joined the Argentinian and Latam Ambassador groups. Everybody was very welcoming, and now I consider them some of my best friends,” says Nico.

The Moovit editor, the tool used by the Mooviter Community to improve and publish mobility information, is very similar to the Wikipedia model — aggregating knowledge from the community. The Ambassadors are the most experienced members and through their frequent contributions are able to gain more privileges and responsibilities. This includes checking information inputted by other members and the ability to share alerts. Moovit provides the Ambassadors full support, and offers opportunities such as meetups, activities, and shared learning.

Mexicali

Virtual visits to Mexicali

But how does one map a city without physically being there? Nico and the team started with the information available on official operator websites, which sometimes required using a VPN since some pages aren’t available outside of Mexico. Finally, the Mooviters used virtual tools that show what the streets look like for more accurate information on locations of bus stops and what routes look liked.

“It was a beautiful experience. I enjoyed navigating through the streets, checking every detail, and editing the locations of the bus stops… Mexicali is a lovely city, and I hope I can visit it sometime in the future!” says Nico. 

Mexicali was not a first for Nico. After mapping out mobility information in Buenos Aires and La Plata, he has also engaged with the teams that mapped Acapulco, Mexico; Pereira, Colombia and even Guatemala City (one that Nico says he especially enjoyed). 

When asked what motivates him to do what he does, Nico doesn’t hesitate: “I really like to help people in using public transportation, especially tourists and other people not from the local area. I feel that Moovit offers multiple means of transport to get around, even in places that I have never been. That makes me proud and happy!”

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