Sunday, July 3, 2011

MMDA Traffic Navigator

MMDA & TV5 launch Philippines' first digital traffic map

I love transit maps! I get extremely excited when I see a well-designed information graphic, and transit maps are at the top of my list because of their crazy utility. It can't be easy to design just one image that effectively communicates so much inter-related information at the same time - where each train goes, what routes are available to get somewhere, how near each station is to where you're going, where you can get on or off, whether or not each line runs all day.

As a blueprint for how people navigate through a city, a transit map also says something about that city's identity. When I travel to a new place, a well-designed transit map tells me whether or not the local government cares enough about its commuters to give structure to this crucial daily activity. This of course assumes that transportation systems work at all and were strategized properly so that they can now be communicated in an efficient way that allows even new users can easily get on board.

My favorite transit map is of New York, because it is New York's! But I like this map especially because it anchors the different transit points or subway stations over the actual city map so you know where each stop is, in relation to the whole city.

Then you can immediately tell things like how near or far each station is from the another. What options you have in terms of subway lines if you want to go to, say Midtown East or the Upper West Side.

Other maps like London's, Beijing's and I think even Tokyo's, are cleaner in terms of design. But because but elements are not anchored on an actual map you'd have to look at another (actual map) to figure out where you are once you leave the station.

I've never seen a map for Metro Manila that would really be useful to commuters or drivers but last week the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) launched the Philippines' first digital transit map. The Traffic Navigator helps citizens easily get traffic readings from key points all over the city.

I love that a government unit in the Philippines is using digital as a platform to make services and utilities! MMDA started off with a very helpful Twitter account that consolidates traffic updates. Now they've taken it a step further.

How it works. The site maps five "Lines" - EDSA, Quezon Ave., Espana, C5, Roxas Blvd and SLEX. These main roads are broken up into the areas that each road hits. The icon for each area indicates the level of traffic going Northbound or Southbound. Red for heavy, Yellow for moderate and Green for light. At a glance, users can tell the state of traffic at a specific place or all over the Metro.

Navigation. The site offers different ways to filter the information. Users can select to see just Northbound or Southbound traffic icons. Besides the main veiw (screenshot above), users can opt to see the list of areas covered in each line or an overlay of the traffic updates on Google Maps.

Design. Clean, clear and easy to understand. Very pretty!

Beta. When they get to the site, users are immediately alerted that this service is still on beta and not yet updated 24/7. (Content is only updated between 10am and 6pm.) But to inform the MMDA of any suggestions or bugs, users are invited to e-mail

Learning Opportunity. I would love to find out who came up with this, who designed it and the kind of content management strategy they're putting in effect to make sure updates are done regularly and accurately. I also wonder what kind of analytics they have in place and how they are going to optimize performance based on those numbers.

When I showed it to a friend in the office, he remarked that Pinoys aren't ready for stuff like this yet. Maybe he's right. But as we see leading government institutions thinking critically about using digital to find ways to be of service, the more we ourselves may learn to include utility-based thinking in our everyday lives. Thanks, @MMDA!

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