One of the trickiest aspects of bus travel in Lebanon is figuring out the best and most efficient spots to transfer between different bus routes with little or no walking.
For example, the corner of Armenia Street and Cornich El Naher is a good place to hop off the Number 5 and catch the Number 6 or Number 15 to Cola Roundabout. For the return trip, getting off the Number 15 on Boulevard Sin el-Fil, near Gallery Al-Ittihad, is the best way to catch the Number 2, or get back on the Number 5.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for multi-stage bus travel?
Did you know that OpenStreetMap has a “Transport” layer for Lebanon? And that people have been adding bus routes to it by hand?
One prolific mapper told us about his motivations and experience:
“I moved to Lebanon in 2012. We did not intially have a car so we relied on public transportation. It was a bit frustrating at first because we did not know where the buses went etc. We eventually found the Zawarib book which has a Bus Map in the back. Unfortunately, the bus map only shows “areas” the buses goes to, which made it very difficult to know what street to go to catch a bus. Many times we waited on a street for a bus only to find out the bus actually goes down a parallel street. Or the apparent crossing of 3 routes in one place, but in reality 2 busses cross in one spot, and 2 others cross elsewhere.
When I first discovered OSM in February 2014, I saw the transport layer had a good portion of routes tagged, but mostly on the West side of Beirut down to the airport and only LCC routes. I had become familiar with more of the east side routes, so I added them. Mostly 2, 7, 8, some OCFTC, Sakr. I can’t remember if I’ve tagged any of 9 or 15. I was quite glad to find OSM and added the routes (or partial routes) I knew. I joined OSM primarily so that I could have a good bus route map to reference that showed routes on actual streets. I am not using GPS, but just my memory from when I rode the bus routes.
In mapping the bus routes I discovered that several roads were incorrectly labeled, routed, etc. So in order to put in the bus routes I had to add roads, correct one-way roads, even put in new intersections and roundabouts that were incorrect.”
Initiatives like OSM, Zawarib and onlinelebanonbuses.com need constant maintenance to keep routes updated. Any grassroots mappers out there who can help?
We are big fans of the فان رقم 4 Facebook page. With humor and one or two selfies, this page is humanizing a vital transport link between our capital’s centre and periphery.
According to the admins, the idea for the page began when one of them wondered why people check-in at Verdun or Gemmeyzeh, but not on the van. When we asked them what’s so special about Van 4 as a ‘place,’ they said: “it helps a lot of university students and employees. This is the main community on fb. The line passes through a lot of universities. Downtown. And Hamra. And maybe the bus drivers are special themselves. They’ve got character.”
If mapping is about increasing familiarity, then it needs more than lines drawn on a 2D surface.
In this spirit, learn more about the “ra’m arb’a” in this lovely piece over at Mashallah News:
“Going along for the whole ride exposes an intriguing “slice” of the city. At some points, it flashes past like a fast-forwarding reel of film: blurry and inexhaustible in its contrasting, contradictory impressions. […] At other times, bogged down in yet another traffic jam along Spears Street or at the Mar Mikhael Church intersection, the city lies motionless around you like a massive, panting beast. You finally have time to take a closer look at your surroundings. Maybe you can pick up again, if only for a fleeting moment, the fragile thread that ties all of these disparate places together into one city: Dahiyeh, Ain el Remmaneh, Chiah, Badaro, Ras el Naba`, Basta, Bachoura, Monot, Downtown, Hamra.”
For more poetic takes on the cultural side of transportation, see the full series here.
“Try to locate any place in the Lebanese capital and this, typically, is what you will hear: details and places, not the names of streets or their numbers. Whether visiting a friend for the first time or trying to find someone’s office, the best bet is always to find landmarks, not official addresses – they may exist, but probably won’t be of much help anyway, because no one really uses them.”
The same logic applies along Lebanon’s bus routes; informal ‘stops’ and ‘stations’ have developed near particular buildings, bridges and intersections.
Do you know Al-Ittihad? El-Hayek? Kuwaiti Embassy? Gallery Semaan?