App looks to plug gaps in Jordan’s transport system

LONDON: Late-running public transport may be a fact of life in Jordan — but one entrepreneur has been quick to embrace new technology to help ease the morning commute.
Plans to arrive for work on time are frequently thwarted by a bus leaving half an hour late, taxi drivers refusing certain destinations or heavy traffic.
Wary of this, 24-year-old Rahmeh Abu Shweimeh co-founded RideAct, a mobile app designed to reduce traffic and provide real-time updates on transport around the country.
“I only got my driver’s license two years ago and know what a pain public transport here is for anyone who relies on it,” said Shweimeh, who works at an insurance company in Amman.
“Even if you pay a lot of money for a cab, you don’t get decent services in exchange — this is what pushed me to think about finding a solution to make transportation easier, faster, more reliable and safer for everyone in Jordan.”
For women in particular, public transport presents a host of difficulties, to the extent that some are hindered from joining the workforce altogether. Harassment on buses and in taxis is a major problem and as a result many feel unsafe traveling alone, Shweimeh said.
Meanwhile the delays and unreliability of a haphazard service affect everyone, making traveling around a capital choked with cars a source of daily frustration for commuters trying to reach their destination at the appointed time.
“Being late here is the norm … it’s impossible to be punctual using public transport,” Shweimeh added.
RideAct hopes to address this by creating a carpooling community that offers Jordanians access to an efficient, reliable and affordable transport service.
It’s part of a growing trend among Jordanians who, tired of waiting for the government to follow through on overdue transport projects, are developing their own technology solutions to solve mobility issues affecting their everyday lives.
“Using tech to improve the user experience on public transport in Jordan is one of the low-hanging fruits that we haven’t really taken advantage of,” said transport consultant Hazem Zureiqat.
“It doesn’t cost much, it’s readily available and it can have an impact on the user experience without having to invest too much in infrastructure and building new systems.”
One of the mentors behind Shweimeh’s project, Zureiqat is the co-founder of Ma’an Nasel (arriving together), a public transport advocacy group which last year produced the first public transport map for Amman, compiled by volunteers using their smartphones to track routes around the city.
The resulting map addressed one of the major shortfalls for users trying to navigate Amman’s chaotic transport system — the lack of information available on routes for buses and shared white taxis as well as the location of stops and stations.
However the map has no way of warning users if their bus has taken a different route that day or, as often happens, the service is delayed because the driver waited at the stop for more people to board in order to extract the most fares possible before proceeding.
That’s where RideAct comes in. The app, which is available on iOS and Android, allows users to post real-time feedback on their journeys and comment on route disruptions, poor-quality service and wait times.
However the most popular feature, Shweimeh believes, will be the carpooling option because it will provide the majority of Jordanians who can’t afford private services like Uber and Careem with access to an affordable means of mobility that eliminates the inconvenience of relying on public transport services.
Though still in its early phases, with technical glitches to iron out and more funding to raise, RideAct aims to redress some of the flaws in Jordan’s transport system and, hopefully, inspire more Jordanian entrepreneurs to come up with creative solutions to their mobility woes.
But their success is contingent on government support, Zureiqat says, which hasn’t always been forthcoming.
“People have a big role to play but there needs to be some minimum level of support to facilitate and help deploy the solutions they come up with.”

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