Interview: BMP in Banapook

“Though it sounds trivial, one of the main reasons the middle-class has notoriously avoided using Lebanon’s bus system is simply a matter of labels and maps. Where does this one go? Where are the bus stops? [..] What’s admirable about Lebanon’s millennials is that they aren’t naive to expect too much from public bodies and tend to proactively find alternative solutions.”

Thanks for the feature, Bananapook! <3

It’s interesting to reflect on the pragmatism that motivates us at a time when there’s a real chance that the same can-do spirit might make public policy more welcoming of our generation. Our vote is with all of you hopeful people. Good luck to us all!

“3a Beirut” by Samer Dadanian

Title : 3a beirut – A film about the perception of a guy coming from the bekaa to beirut. He is waiting for the bus that will take him to his dream city, wondering if it will as expected…

Check out this clever portrait of unequal development and the importance of access to public transport in Lebanon.

Mapped! First Ten Routes

Here’s a sneak preview of our first, ten, mapped bus routes!

first10routesmapped-mar2015

We tracked these using LiveTrekker and Gaia GPS, and dumped them raw onto Google Maps. The routes will need to be cleaned up and labelled (and there’s a lot more coming!) but it’s fun to see the system start to take (some) shape and make (more) sense.

first10routesmapped-ii-mar2015

Live outside of Beirut? Want to help us track more bus routes? Yalla!

“Under The Bridge” by Nora Niasari

We’re excited to share this documentary by our friend Nora Niasari, now available to view online! Production of this short film on Beirut’s public transport began in 2010. In 2011, “Beirut, Under the Bridge” was awarded ‘Best Director Documentary’ and ‘Special Jury Prize Documentary’ at the 11th Beirut International Film Festival, and was broadcast on CNN and MTV Lebanon.

We asked Nora to reflect on her project, nearly six years on: “For me, Beirut is a city of unspoken potential. In 2010, our film stirred up a mostly dormant debate about public transport, asking why the sector was effectively buried alive after the civil war. We learned many things, but today, transport workers and transport users alike are still asking, “Where are we headed?”

Read more about Nora’s experience here.

The Traffic Crisis

Citizen Consultation Lebanon is an interesting initiative addressing civic rights and needs from a grassroots perspective, including the right to public transport, as seen in this legal briefing. Have a look to learn more about the root causes of the traffic crisis we are facing today, and make sure you also check out Legal Agenda’s earlier briefing (in Arabic).

At the same time, we would like to point out how little attention the existing transit network is given in such documents. This is a common issue; most people working on transport/transit in Lebanon have a very good idea about everything the state has failed to do, or has done badly, but the elephant in the room — the complex networks of people and places filling the gap left open by state neglect and mismanagement — is consistently ignored, downplayed, or put to one side.

We believe that the existing transit system is more than just a lack (“UNregulated,” “UNorganised,” “INefficient,” etc), a mistake, or an empty placeholder for something yet to come. It’s also more than a de facto reality we must contend with in order to promote change — it is a network of citizens just like us. Time to start talking.

Year-In-Review 2015

As 2015 starts making its exit, and the various ‘Year in Review’ posts begin to proliferate, we are excited about what’s in the Bus Map Project pipeline in the coming months. We are buzzing with ideas and have several threads to follow up on after the holiday season, so this is a great time to reflect on the project so far.

Our modest proposal emerged during one hot summer of great anger and great hope in Lebanon. We have been insisting on doing things a little differently from what we’re used to, and it has been very encouraging to see positive and enthusiastic responses from the people we’ve met and interacted with along the way. It appears that the need for new approaches to incremental urban change is something that others can easily recognize—so, thank you! Thank you for coming along for the ride.

Since our ‘soft launch,’ we have enjoyed letting the project morph and adapt according to the connections we’ve made. In the coming weeks, we will be drawing on what we’ve learned to develop an action plan for 2016: to widen the circle of participation in the mapping process, and develop specific areas of focus based on the partnerships we’ve formed. We invite you to get in touch with us if you have any thoughts or concerns, want to work directly with us, or simply feel like a chat.

And of course, we will be updating you about our recent activities: what’s up with that bus route in Ghosta? What was the most popular route mapped by participating student-designers? How can you join our emerging ‘citizen design’ team? Answers to these questions and more will be coming soon.

For now, we wish you happy holidays!

Interview: BMP in SOILS Newsletter

Our thanks to SOILS Permaculture Association Lebanon for featuring the project in their latest newsletter! Check out the full issue here:

soils-nov2015

And if you want to learn more about SOILS, why not make the leap and pay them a visit in Saidoun?

The ‘last mile logistics’ will be a little tricky, but you can get most of the way there from Beirut by bus. From Cola Intersection, take one of the many buses or vans that go to Nejmeh Square in Saida. We recommend the comfy LTC (‘Sawi Zantout’) express route. In Saida, take another LTC down to Jezzine. You’ll need to tell the bus driver that you’re getting off at “Homsiyeh,” after “Roum”. Saidoun is 15-20 minutes away by car, so you’ll need to hitchhike, or arrange for someone to pick you up.

It’s definitely a trek, but no one ever said that sustainable living would be boring ✌️ ?

Stigma & Fear

Stigma is a major hurdle to overcome when promoting public transport in Lebanon. When we spoke to Tarek Chemaly of Beirut/NTSC, he urged us to make this a priority in our future campaigns.

Sometimes, the effort to overcome negative images of the bus end up reinforcing those images. When activists say that “the bus can be modern, not like what we have,” they justify their advocacy by stigmatizing existing populations.

When we say a bus is ‘dirty.’ what are we saying about those who use it?

Fear is another hurdle. In fact, it might be the bigger challenge, and hence, more of a priority for us. There’s the fear of the unknown and incomprehensible, which is what mapping would help alleviate, but there is also the fear of strangers, and the related and highly-gendered fear of harassment or violence. Sometimes, in our zeal for fighting stigma, we forget to take fear into account.

Many women are afraid to ride the bus because they are told to be afraid. Many are afraid because they’ve had bad experiences. This is a touchy subject, because these dangers are often inflated and mixed up with racist, classist and patriarchal ideas. Indeed, warning women about taking the bus is often just another way to control them. But this does not mean that public space in general does not tend to be hostile to the free movement of women. This is a Lebanese problem and a global one as well.

For all these reasons, we would like to invite you to share your experiences, both good and bad. The bus can be a joy to ride, but this is not always the case for everyone. We should tackle this issue head on. Comment, share, link us to your own posts, in any language you’re comfortable with.