Putting Colombia’s Transit Information on the Map and the App

Published: August 8, 2022

Remember taking the bus back in the old days? You would arrive at the station and read the paper schedule to see when the next bus would be set to arrive, or check the transit agency’s website beforehand to plan your journey, or perhaps you asked others at the stop for information. Nowadays, while many agencies still operate like this, urban mobility apps are available in thousands of cities around the world, allowing users to easily plan their journeys right from their smartphones. But, while it’s easy to plan a journey with just a few taps, integrating all the information on bus schedules and routes isn’t so easy.

We sat down with Fabio Calderón, one of Moovit’s first Mooviter Community members when he joined back in 2015. We wanted to hear more about his journey as a Moovit user, turned Mooviter Ambassador, and eventually a Moovit employee. 

Seven years ago, Fabio was looking for an easy way to plan public transit journeys around Bogota, Colombia. He discovered the Moovit app, which had just launched its service locally. Unfortunately, the app guided him to the wrong bus stop. After reaching out to support for help, Fabio eventually learned that Moovit just rolled out a program called the Mooviter Community and was looking for volunteers to help map and maintain local transit information in cities around the world. Fabio was invited to help his fellow residents get around more easily, and, needless to say, he was on board.

Not long after, Fabio learned that many transit agencies do not make their bus routes and schedules publicly available, and instead this information needs to be manually added to the app. That was the case with Bogota. A member of Moovit’s Operations team who had never been to Colombia and was based in Tel Aviv, had manually integrated information about 200 Bogota routes to the app. While this was a huge effort, it helped Fabio gain insight into why the data in Colombia was still rough around the edges. He decided to take matters into his own hands and ensure that the bus routes were corrected and that the locations of bus stops were precise. He began going to physical bus stops to see where the stops were located and pin them in the right place on the map inside the Moovit app. He would also take pictures of the bus schedules to ensure the information was correct. 

“Every time I help Moovit improve its data, I know that I am helping others. I know that it’s reliable local transport information that will accurately guide people in getting around Bogota,” says Fabio. 

Moving up the Ladder

Within six months, Fabio quickly moved up the levels of editing transit data and eventually became one of the first Moovit Ambassadors, very active veteran Mooviter Community members with more responsibility editing and validating transit information presented to Moovit users. As the Community grew, they held local meetups to bond and listen to feedback from other members.

The Ambassadors learned that while people wanted to help, they felt intimidated by the editing tool, the software that enables them to input data. They were unsure how to input the data properly or weren’t certain how to decipher the information. Along with Julio Vallejo, Fabio created a manual about contributing data: how to properly gather and upload information, which data is important to include, and what tasks were available at the time, such as double checking data uploaded by other people or if stations were pinned precisely on the map. Today, more than 8,000 stops in Bogota have been pinned in the Moovit app. Not to mention, the manual Fabio and Julio created is still in use today and is distributed to new local Mooviter members. 

Changing Lanes

Fabio fiercely took on the role of an Ambassador and mentor. When the COVID pandemic hit, there were constant changes and impacts to bus schedules all over the world, and a strong need for someone on the ground in Latin America to lead the Community. 

Moovit began the search for an Operations Team Member based in Latin America, to oversee the region and to have communication with Community members without the hassle of time zone differences. Someone who could provide Moovit employees with input about what the Community wants and provide the Community with what Moovit, as a company, can do for them. Fabio was the man for the job. 

“That phrase about the tip of the iceberg is true. I thought I knew a lot about Moovit because I knew how the Editor tool works. But, once I was hired as part of the company, I saw the bigger picture: the various departments, processes, and software systems. It was great to hear all this from the other side and also realizing that the system intended to give the best data possible does take time, effort, and has to go through development, research, beta testing, and more.”

After some time, Fabio moved to the US to continue his studies toward his PhD. However, due to his obligations with the program, Fabio made the hard decision of stepping back into his Ambassador role. He says that working as a Moovit employee gave him a broader and more technical perspective that he now applies to his Ambassador duties. 

When asked about some final words on being an Ambassador, Fabio says this: 

“The Community works not only because of the passion people have for public transit information, but because of the relationship and communication we have with [Moovit’s Operations] team. I see that it goes both ways — the Community and the company helping each other. I think it’s amazing building a friendship and deep connections with one another.”

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