MAC Research Forum: New tools for improving user information and developing more inclusive paratransit planning

Dear scholars in the VREF community, welcome to join our virtual Research Forum 6 December. Three projects within the Mobility and Access in African Cities program (MAC) will be presented and discussed with a focus on ”New tools for improving user information and developing more inclusive paratransit planning”.

Recent years have seen the emergence of new planning approaches and tools that seek to improve existing information on urban transport systems by integrating perspectives and knowledge from planners, operators and users. In this context there is a great need for more in-depth knowledge about informal (paratransit) services and operations, as well as what information travelers need as they navigate these systems. 

This Research Forum will focus on exploratory projects which are currently developing innovative methods in response to this need. Examples are work that uses data from emerging General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) formats to model paratransit routes and networks, as well as work on participatory co-design approaches and tools for developing more user-friendly transport information. 


TIME: 12.00 – 14.00 Note! GMT time zone

  • How can existing approaches to urban transport modelling be adapted to paratransit operations, and how can such data be used in new toolkits for transport planning based on principles of justice? 
  • How can new data collection systems help us to better allocate paratransit services in ways that mitigate unequal access?
  • How can various stakeholders – transport providers, governments and user groups – cooperate to co-design and deliver the types of user information that are needed?
  • How might user-centric app solutions for providing information be developed in ways that are responsive to African digital cultures?

Moderator: Winnie Mitullah, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Rapporteur: Mary Mwangi, University of Nairobi, Kenya


Welcome and introduction: Henrik Nolmark, VREF


“Co-design laboratories for public transport information in African cities”
Presenters: Christo Venter, University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Savannah Harvett, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Discussant: Hannibal Bwire, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

“Modelling paratransit in low data environments in Africa”
Presenter: Obiora Nnene, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Discussant: Lourens de Beer, University of Pretoria

“Assessing stakeholder perspectives for efficient allocation of paratransit towards mitigating unequal access to opportunities in sub-Saharan African cities” 
Presenter: Gift Dumedah, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana
Discussant: Mark Zuidgeest, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Plenary discussion


Since 2021, the VREF Mobility and Access in African Cities (MAC) program has hosted a series of virtual seminars under the title VREF MAC Research Forum. The seminars focus on recent or ongoing research in the area of sustainable mobility and equitable access in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) cities.

The purpose of the Research Forum is:

›› to stimulate scientific discussion of specific issues/themes related to sustainable urban mobility and equitable access in SSA;
›› to provide an opportunity for MAC researchers to present and discuss their on-going work with research colleagues within the MAC community;
›› to provide a meeting place for dialogue and exchange among researchers and other stakeholders within the MAC community.

Do you have questions, thoughts or ideas related to the MAC program? Do not hesitate to contact us: