Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


Easily planning routes using public transport is key to increasing ridership. VAMOS does this in developing countries, where the growth is.



The current transportation model centered on personal internal combustion vehicles is environmentally unsustainable and produces serious social and economic damage. Transport produces 13% of GHG emissions worldwide, consumes over half of the global liquid fossil fuels and generates over 80% of air pollution in cities in developing countries. Transport is also a social justice issue, especially in fast growing countries like India where cars, which serve less than 15% of the population take up 75% of the roads while buses, used by up to 60% of the people occupy a mere 8% of the road area.

The UN projects that world population will grow to 9 billion by 2050, with virtually all of this growth in the emerging economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, many developing countries do not have a sufficiently robust public transport information system for users to conveniently access public transport. In the case of Costa Rica, the initial deployment site for VAMOS, information on bus stop locations, bus routes or schedules is not publicly available. Because the bus is the backbone of the public transport system this makes the system as a whole very difficult to use, especially for new users. The urgent need to resolve this situation is clearly identified in the National Transport Plan designed by the Ministry of Transport and Public Works.

VAMOS will tap into the power of crowdsourced data from mobile phone users to map existing public transport infrastructure and provide a real time picture of conditions in the system allowing users to plan their routes using a variety of public transport modes.  The information gathered will also be processed and analyzed to provide feedback to transport operators and regulators to optimize current use and improve the planning of future expansions. Once the pilot implementation is fully operational we will develop a Replication Kit with documentation to facilitate the implementation of VAMOS in other countries.

Category of the action

Building efficiency: Physical Action

What actions do you propose?

The development of potential initiatives to promote sustainable urban transport must be undertaken through a framework which allows a structured approach while maintaining the necessary flexibility to adapt to local circumstances. The Avoid-Shift-Improve (A-S-I) approach developed by the German Development Cooperation Agency GIZ  is one such framework. By focusing initially on Avoiding (or reducing) the need to travel wherever possible the A-S-I approach aims to promote system efficiency through initiatives linked with land-use planning and demand management. Medium-to-high density urban development and telepresence (telecommuting, e-government, etc) all play an important role in allowing access to opportunities with the minimum amount of transport possible. For those trips which are inevitable Shift instruments seek to promote trip efficiency by shifting demand from the most energy consuming mode (cars) towards more sustainable modes. Of especial interest is the promotion of a shift towards non-mechanical and public transport options. Finally, the Improve component focuses on improving vehicle efficiency through the use of vehicle-specific technologies, fuel-standards and alternative energy sources.By applying the A-S-I Model to the accessibility perspective it is possible to identify key initiatives to promote sustainable urban transport systems.

VAMOS sits squarely in the “Shift” component of the A-S-I Model by addressing the lowest-hanging-fruit amongst the identified barriers to use of sustainable transport in developing countries: the availability of information to plan a route using public transport. By leveraging the increasing availability of smart phones as both information display devices and crowdsourced data gathering sensors VAMOS aims to increase the use of multi-modal public transport -initially in Costa Rica, but explicitly implementing design and architecture elements to facilitate replication in other countries- while simultaneously gather large data sets that could be used to model and improve existing and future transport infrastructure.

VAMOS aims to:

  • Provide a tool to locate nearby public transport access points(bus stops, train stations, bicycle hubs, etc), plan routes and provide social feedback on system status (traffic, closed roads, unusable stops/stations).
  • Provide schedule, route and access point information, including crowdsourced updates for bus/train arrival times and access point availability.
  • Gather substantial information about bus usage patterns for an Integrated Transit Analysis Platform to help companies and government officials to optimize current use and improve the planning of future expansions.
  • Reduce barriers to usage and motivate the general population to use public transportation.


Development Sequence and Key Features

  • Version 0.5 (Alpha) Access point locator
  • Allows users to locate public transport access points closest to their current location.
  • Displays route, schedule and rate information for buses/trains available at each access point.
  • Version 1.0 Route planning
  • Allows users to plan routes using public transport options.
  • Integrates with other platforms (FourSquare, Waze) for point of interest location.
  • Version 2.0 Crowdsourced bus/train arrival time updates
  • Uses data from users to provide accurate estimated time of arrival updates for buses and trains.
  • Version 3.0 Crowdsourced access point availability updates
  • Uses data from users to update access point availability in response to changing circumstances (road closures, accidents, special events).
  • Allows users to provide feedback on public transport quality (driver/unit rating, access point rating, etc).
  • Integrated Transit Analysis Platform
  • Uses big data methods to analize the data gathered from usage statistics to provide feedback to public transport operators and regulators.
  • Aims to optimize the usage of existing infrastructure as well as provide actionable input for planning and expansion.
  • Replication Kit
  • Provides tools and documents based on the lessons learned from the pilot experience in Costa Rica to facilitate the replication of VAMOS in other countries.


·        VAMOS web, phone and tablet versions

Project Activities and Methodology: 
This project is mainly focused on the development of a tool for the general public to have access to ever changing public route transportation system. Therefore much of the project activities and methodologies revolve around the implementation of such system.

The following are the pre-development project activities:

  1. Survey to validate concept - Complete
  2. Storyboard to validate concept - Complete
  3. Contextual Interviews of bus usage - Complete
  4. Body Storming Exercises - Complete
  5. Requirements Gathering in form of User Stories – Complete


The following are the development project activities:

  1. System Analysis and Architecture - Complete
  2. Wireframes User Experience - Complete
  3. Develop an initial prototype in Android OS – In progess
  4. Develop an Alpha Release in Android OS
  5. Develop a full releases in Android OS, IPhone OS and Web (V1 – V3)
  6. The Integrated Transit Analysis Platform will be iteratively developed in parallel to the full releases.


The development activities will be approach using a widely known development methodology called: Agile-Scrum Development, which will be explained below. Also the necessity of having a great user experience derives in the use of Strong User Experience Practices.

Agile methodology is an approach to project management used in software development. It is the software development methodology chosen because it helps teams respond to the unpredictability of building software through incremental, iterative work (sprints). At the end of each sprint there is an expected and measurable amount of work to be reviewed. For each sprint the work expected is defined in a set of User Stories to be completed and for each User Story the acceptance criteria had been predetermined.

These User Stories are created based on rigorous user data which has been acquired from Contextual Interviews, Surveys and Body Storming exercises. Each of these User Stories is translated into wire-frames and behavior notes by our User Experience Designer which are then skinned by our graphic designer and implemented by our developers. This implementation is then tested for completion by our product owner and subsequently for satisfaction with our beta testers.

Our methodology is iterative and incremental meaning software is developed in modular components and each component is tested and improved upon. In an agile paradigm, every aspect of development — requirements, design, etc. — is continually revisited throughout the lifecycle. At the end of each sprint, stakeholders and team members meet to assess the progress of a project and plan its next steps. When a team stops and re-evaluates the direction of a project every two weeks, there’s always time to steer it in another direction. The results of this “inspect-and-adapt” approach to development greatly reduce both development costs and time to market. Because a team’s work cycle is limited to two weeks, it gives stakeholders recurring opportunities to calibrate releases for success in the real world. In essence, it could be said that the agile development methodology helps companies build the right product. 

Who will take these actions?

FUPER is a non-governmental non-profit organization focused on promoting scientific thinking, data-driven decision making and citizen activism as the basis of low-emissions development, climate resilience and a generally sustainable society. FUPER is an inter-disciplinary endeavor that brings together the arts, science, humanities and technology in its approach to every project. In 2012 FUPER launched SW!CH 12-21 as a series of events to promote a civil-society commitment to support the national goal of making Costa Rica Carbon Neutral by 2021. FUPER is also leading the development of projects relating to sustainable transport, smart grid and supporting the development of the National Climate Change Metrics System.

FUPER has assembled a multidisciplinary team to lead the VAMOS comprised of user interface, software development, big data, sustainability and design experts.

Where will these actions be taken?

VAMOS is currently being developed for pilot implementation in Costa Rica, but it is explicitly designed to be replicated throughout the world.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

The limited data currently available makes accurate estimation of the potential GHG reductions from the implementation of VAMOS very difficult. However, mobile combustion for terrestrial transport is the single largest element of Costa Rica’s carbon footprint, emitting over 3,800 million tCO2e in 2005. Of these, 48% are generated by personal vehicles which serve about 25% of the population while public transportation, which serves as the main motorized mode of transportation for the other 75% of the population, accounts for only 9% of GHG emissions. 

What are other key benefits?

A recent report by the UK Department for International Development puts it bluntly:

“Implementing climate change mitigation measures in the transport sector will contribute to the economic and social progress of developing nations by creating new jobs, healthier environments and enhanced mobility, and will reduce the vulnerability of poor people to anthropogenic climate change impacts.

There is also a strong tendency for a negative correlation between sustainable urban transport and obesity rates, as reproduced in Figure 9 below;

More public transport use contributes to less obesity.

The implementation of the Guanghzou BRT doubled the amount of people who feel safe walking around the area while a study of the pedestrianisation of the Khao San Road in Bangkok found that 85% of retailers agreed with the project after it was implemented and 47% reported increased sales. Congestion is also notably reduced for all road users. These are just a few examples of the less-than-obvious advantages of a sustainable urban transport system. 

What are the proposal’s costs?

VAMOS is currently being developed as a volunteer effort under the auspices of the Fundación Pro Energías Renovables FUPER . Funding levels will directly affect time to market, feature release times and growth rate.

A total budget of $250,000 over two years would allow for development of full Android and iOS applications (V1 – V3), an initial Integrated Transit Analysis Platform and the creation of a Replication Kit to support implementation in other countries. Funds would be used mostly to hire additional staff to accelerate the development process and pay for necessary servers and bandwith for the app operation.

Time line

Describe how the proposed actions will be phased in over the short term (5-15 years), medium term (15-50 years), and long term (50-100 years)

The following delivery estimates assume a sufficient level of funding:

·         Version 0.5 (Alpha) Access point locator – 3 months from start

·         Version 1.0 Route planning – 9 months from start

·         Version 2.0 Crowdsourced bus/train arrival time updates – 18 months from start

·         Version 3.0 Crowdsourced access point availability updates – 21 months from start

·         Integrated Transit Analysis Platform – 21 months from start

·         Replication Kit – 24 months from start

Related proposals



World Resource Institute - The Role of Driving in Reducing GHG Emissions and Oil Consumption

Kumar, Santosh and Ross, WIlliam - Effects of Pedestrianisation on the Commercial and Retail Areas: Study in Kha San Road, Bangkok

Ministry of Environment and Enenrgy of Costa Rica - Second National Communication on Climate Change

GIZ - Sustainable Urban Transport: Avoid-Shift-Improve (A-S-I)

Ricardo-AEA - Transport in a low carbon economy

ITDP - Guangzhou, China Bus Rapid Transit Emissions Impact Analysis

Bassett, et al - Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America, and Australia.