Accra trotro routes are mapped out by operators strategically. There are several ways drivers and unions run the routes.
1. Union approved routes
For Accra trotro routes originated by the unions, roads or streets that traverse points with dense population – static or transient – are chosen as originating and destination points. The union is assured of outbound and inbound passengers. Sometimes the end points of some union routes are not populous but there are waypoints that are busy enough to guarantee sales. These official Accra trotro routes are the basis for calculation of official trotro prices. These official routes form 60% of all routes plied by trotro buses in the city of Accra.
2. Adhoc routes
Then there are informal routes created by drivers and conductors. These Accra trotro routes capitalize on events, time of day and points of interest. So on a soccer match day, trotro buses will ply Circle to Stadium through Parliament house.
3. Driver unilateral routing
These Accra trotro routes are informal. For example, in the morning rush hour, trotro buses will go residence to office routes, residence to market routes or residence to school routes. Special attention is given to routes that have lots of waypoints because more stops means higher passenger turnover for more profits. For example the Abeka Lapaz to Accra trotro route may charge 3 ghs for the trip. So if a passenger pays the terminal fare of 3 ghs and alights midway, and another takes the seat to reach the destination, the new entrant pays 2 ghs which is 60% of the fare. So for a single seat and for the same distance, the driver makes 5 ghs instead of 3 ghs if there is a passenger turnover. By midday, the operators will switch to inner city routes to ferry passengers across short distances. In the evening, they revert to residence based routes. Points of interest also provide justification for routes which explains why the siting of a medical facility transformed the original Baatsona Accra trotro route into Rasta LEKMA route.
4. Passenger evolution routes
Some Accra trotro routes are also instanced by passengers. Demographic and social dynamics can systematically reroute a trotro trip. A popular media facility, Radio Gold, moved the Sabon Zongo Solo route further west by encircling Sukura.
The conductor on the trotro bus colloquially referred to as a “mate” serves as a scout for the driver of the bus. As the bus goes upcity, the mate observes how laden the oncoming buses are. Full capacity vehicles are indications that there are enough passengers on the return trip. If the approaching buses are empty, it indicates a sparse or low patronage along the reverse route. Then the driver decides against a full run and turns to look for a profitable route.