A new limited number of mini-buses that are aimed to be used for public transportation in Cairo province, was unveiled today. The decision was announced 2 months ago and the project was funded by a loan from the World Bank and it was said that the buses would be operational starting from June 2014, but they are now available to ride as of today. What’s different about these buses is that they would have an open-access internet connection (open Wi-Fi), allowing riders to connect to it wirelessly. They also have a screen inside with an automated announcement of the current and the next bus station, with GPS coordination updating its location information every 2 minutes, in order for riders to check online the time it would take the nearest bus to arrive and for the monitored network to remotely inform the bus driver to take the route of a specific line as needed. It also has the number of its line and main station names on an external LED screen, which has been available for almost 2 years in a limited number of other public non-air-conditioned buses.
However, the problem with the open Wi-Fi is that they are easier to spy on, which would even more threat the already threatened privacy in Egypt. We don’t need Wi-Fi in public transportation, we need the mobile networks to fairly charge us and provide us better services, because we pay them extremely too much and get extremely little!
It is still unknown how much their ticket would cost (2014/1/1 Update: Their ticket costs 3 Egyptian pounds; 2014/3/25 Update: I was told by a rider that it was reduced to 2 and a half Egyptian pounds), but it would be printed instantly on a tiny paper as the bills in restaurants are. The bill would have the name of the driver, numbers of the bus line and the bus plate number. You would have the option to pay with a magnetic card that is purchased when you make a subscription.
As of 2013, the air-conditioned buses are rare and cost 2 Egyptian pounds, which is quite expensive to the salaries of most Egyptians to ride everyday. Most of the supposedly air-conditioned buses need to be fixed and their air-conditioning system is always broken! They lack regular maintenance!
The whole public transportation system which includes the rapid transit (metro), need to be greatly enhanced and have air-conditioning in summer, because riding them is extremely tiring of the extreme heat, the bad ventilation (particularly in the rapid transit) and the extreme over-crowding! Streets and transportation are always extremely over-crowded most of the day. Egyptians drive chaotically and the circumstances generally perpetuate these problems. Some streets have no space for the micro-buses to stop and that makes them block streets to allow passengers to go out or get in.
I am always happy for any development, but I personally may never ride these buses because, as I explained, the streets are always over-crowded and I try to ride the metro in part of my journey, because it does not get stuck as much as other means of transportation in traffic congestions. Additionally, I may not benefit of these buses because it is obvious that they would have limited lines and if you are living in Greater Cairo, you would understand that you don’t always choose what to ride or when, because if you do, you would be more late than you would already be for work or whatever you would plan to do!