Friday, December 23, 2011

Mapping Haiti Update

A recurring theme in my trip to Haiti was maps. So much so that "are you mapping this, Nick?" became something of a running joke.

Mapping a broken well

Over time, we became interested in mapping tap taps, Haiti's informal transit system. National routes are a wheel-and-spoke network with Port-au-Prince as its center. But when you zoom in on Port-au-Prince, a complicated network of short links emerges. To travel from one part of the city to another, travelers must have a mental map of which stations fall between their starting point and destination. To go somewhere new, you must find someone who knows the path. It turned out that these everyday conversations were the best way to introduce Haitians to sharing information about mapping Port-au-Prince.

Watson mapping a well

For awhile the data was collected but remained difficult to share or even see. If you followed instructions on a wiki, you could see something like this:

With Andy Allan's development of transit tiles for OpenStreetMap, this project was ready to make a leap forward. With some early-morning hacking with Adam over Skype, we put together just in time for the OpenHaiti summit.

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