“Given our very bad infrastructure and transportation situation, no one can underestimate the inconvenience it causes for students that need to travel long distances to reach the university. Everyone is probably wondering what it is like to be a regular university student at the Faculty of Information located in Jdeideh, where few transportation options are available. No busing service is provided for the area; one must either travel by taxi or use one’s own vehicle. Moreover, only the faculty staff members are allowed to park their cars in the university parking. All students and visitors are forced to park in a paid private parking.”
This quote is taken from an article on Hayda Lebnan, written by the Media Association for Peace. It raises an important problem that many students face: getting into university is often half the battle, since after being accepted, getting to your class is still a headache.
Centralization, housing, infrastructure, traffic — it’s very important that people make these connections, because these issues are often addressed separately, though they intersect and amplify each other.
Interestingly, the neighborhood in question — Jdeideh/Sed El Baouchrieh — is one of the better connected areas around Beirut in terms of bus lines, due to its proximity to Dora. Could some of the burden on students be lifted if existing transit options are promoted?
Are you a university student who uses public transport? What routes do you rely on? What challenges do you face?
One of our favorite things to do is meeting with people who are curious about our project; not only do we get a chance to dive into topics we don’t always post about, but through these discussions, we are also reminded of the importance of issues we’ve become accustomed to as bus riders.
In one such conversation yesterday, we recalled why we’re so insistent on following the grain of the public transport system in Lebanon as it already exists: at the heart of this ‘ethos’ is the simple recognition of the fact that even though reforms are needed, reformers are not always necessary. For all its faults and challenges, the existing system — as a network of service providers and service receivers — already has the seeds of renewal within it. If we want to really notice them within the “chaos,” we should be stubbornly modest in our approach to the sector.
Here we see the return of a sign that showed up on a few buses two years ago, when bus tickets were first introduced on the Number 5/8. The language is different this time, but the point is the same: the bus route has organically developed its own regulations (“take a ticket and keep it with you,” “payment is upon entry,”, etc.), with no activist campaign or legal reform or ministerial edict imposed from above.
Perhaps this kind of service standardization is too small to make a big deal about, but when we realize what a sign like this means, we start to notice other self-organized features that are worth celebrating:>/p>
Who convinced bus owners that children ought to ride for free? Who forced the young to give up their seats for the not-as-young? Who figured out the emergency protocols for what to do when a series of delays causes one driver to abandon his trip halfway so he can make it in time for his second job as a school bus operator?
We have big dreams for our city, like so many of you out there, but because we dream big, we insist on keeping our eyes and ears open, so that the size of our hearts can match up with our dreaming.
“Capturing routes on a transport industry that doesn’t follow the same roads everyday or have a structured schedule is a challenge. But this is an even greater hurdle in a city where many are unaware of or refuse to acknowledge the informally-run industry’s place in the city’s public transport network.”
Learn more about the thinking that motivates us in this post on WhereIsMyTransport’s Interchange blog.