The Road to Transparency: Why Ukraine Launched the Interactive Bus Routes Network Map

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Now, thanks to the Bus Routes Network map, Maryna can find bus routes that have stops, the names of official operators and more easily plan her trip.

Thanks to the open data-based Bus Routes Network map, millions of Ukrainian travellers can easily and safely plan trips, while the government and businesses can visualize the country’s transportation system and make growth projections.

Ukraine has close to 170 thousands kilometers of motorways and more than 22,000 passenger carriers that officially transport over 148 million passengers a year. The Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine (MI) estimates that at least 30 to 40 percent of the country’s bus transportation services operate unofficially, without a license to carry passengers and without permits for their specific routes. Even when purchasing tickets online, bus passengers cannot be certain that they will be traveling on the actual bus that is printed on their ticket. More importantly, passengers cannot be certain that the operator of the bus is even legally licensed.

Maryna is a resident of Uzhhorod, a city in western Ukraine. She is a devoted public activist and a member of several NGOs committed to protecting human rights and promoting inclusiveness. Her activism frequently takes her on trips to Kyiv, and she often travels by bus.

Buying a bus ticket was never a simple task. Maryna had to browse various websites to find the timetables for different operators serving the same route and check to make sure that the carrier was legally licensed. She would also review passenger feedback in online forums prior to purchasing her ticket.

That all changed in April 2019 with the launch of the Interactive Bus Routes Network map. Through this MI website, Ukrainians can find all of the information they need about official bus routes (regional and international) and licensed carriers in one place. The Bus Routes Network map was created by the TEXTY data journalism agency, with support from Eurasia Foundation through the USAID/UK aid project, Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (TAPAS). The map is based on data covering  4,000 regional and international bus routes in or across Ukraine and provides users with an interactive visualization of the country’s passenger transportation sector.

Unlike private portals that provide the names of carriers they work with (and these carriers are not always even officially licensed), the map only provides official data. So, when passengers are confronted with a situation in which the reality of their journey does not match up with official information listed on the map (e.g. the name of the carrier, duration of a carrier’s permit to operate a particular route, vehicle comfort level, age, and so on), they can make a formal complaint to the SSTS through email and request an audit. 

This service is helping everyday people like Maryna, who found the Bus Routes Network site in her search engine’s results.While Maryna usually doesn’t like taking long bus journeys because they tend to be uncomfortable for her. When train tickets are sold out and she has no other choice but to take a bus, Maryna looks for buses that stop along the way to Kyiv, so that she can get off of the bus for a bit, stretch and get some fresh air. Now, thanks to the map, she can find bus routes that have stops, the names of official operators and more easily plan her trip.

“Ukraine has many cities that can be reached by bus more conveniently than by train. But sometimes the bus is the only option. I used to have a hard time planning my bus route, as the market was very unclear. Now it’s far simpler with the interactive map,” Maryna says. 

Bus travel has become simpler not just for Maryna, but also for tourists travelling within Ukraine or internationally. The biggest tourist attractions in the Carpathian Mountains, such as the ski resorts of Bukovel and Drahobrat, are far away from routes served by trains and can be reached by road only. From now on, millions of tourists visiting the Carpathians will be able to easily and safely plan their journeys thanks to the Bus Routes Network map.