Torre Baró: An isolated neighborhood with challenging geography


Barcelona (Spain)

Challenge area:

Accessibility & Inclusivity

Implementation period:


The Challenge

Every major city has them: marginalized neighborhoods clinging to the edge of the suburbs. You’re just 20 minutes from the city center, but it could be light years away. No modern transit conveniences here—no subway, light rail—just the occasional heavily subsidized bus doing the rounds.

Torre Baró is one such Barcelona neighborhood. Lying along a steep valley, it was hastily constructed to house the city’s expanding population in the ‘60s, with little thought for urban planning. Transport Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), the City Council’s transit agency, has kept a handful of local minibuses running, but torturous switchback streets and a haphazard layout made it impossible to connect the lines or provide full coverage. Wait times are long and residents at the top of the hill have no direct access to shops, services and transport links in the valley below.

By the time Shotl arrived on the scene, infrequent and inadequate services were the only option for residents. Traditional transport planning has left Torre Baró residents high and dry. The challenge for Shotl was to bridge the gap without breaking the bank.

The Solution

We switched services from fixed-route-and-schedule to flexible on-demand. Using the elMeuBus app, users can request a pick-up and drop-off at any of the new stops that now cover the entire residential area. To handle the area’s tricky streets, we developed navigation maps and GPS customized to recognize the access requirements, limitations and permissions of public buses, quite different from cars.

Through Transport Metropolitans, the City Council funded the service and provided vehicles, drivers, driver’s tablets and a back-up phone line. The council also organised a campaign to explain the service to residents and how to use the passenger App, with a team of social workers knocking door by door and with special care to the elderly.

Passenger App allows users to book and pay for rides, get real-time pick-up and drop-off updates, and a personalized, flexible service that adapts to their needs.

Driver App alerts drivers to new bookings in real-time and directs them to dynamic pick- up and drop-off points. It also controls on-board capacity.

Algorithms constantly optimize all passenger bookings and vehicles routes to provide the best possible service for all users.

Dashboard allows transport operators to set service parameters, monitor operations in real time via the Control Panel and get detailed data and analytics on user behavior.