Just like heart disease, traffic congestion has proven to be a lifestyle problem. For instance, when arteries get clogged or become narrow, the result is a heart attack. Similarly, when roads get clogged, the consequence is gridlocked traffic jams. Drastic measures like surgery may be required to fix things. In order to fully grasp the extent of the problem, we need to ask one fundamental question – why do these traffic jams exist in Lagos?
The answer to this question requires a step back into the history of the city. Historically, Lagos has always been a commercial city, even under British colonial rule. As Nigeria gained independence and key infrastructure was developed (including the Tin Can Island Port and Murtala Muhammed International Airport), the city became more attractive to both internal and external migrants. Unfortunately, the original city design was not updated to accommodate such a bustling population. The delays in redesigning the city plans, coupled with limited investments in infrastructure, meant that the city simply ‘bursts out of its seams’. Existing structures could not cope with the rapid urbanisation of the city and congestion became the norm.
To address the congestion issues of Lagos, one should consider short-term solutions, as well as long-term proposals. In this two-part series, we consider both approaches.
Less costly and easier to implement, several short-term alternatives may be considered.
Bus Rapid Transit system
One of these is the popular Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Invented in Latin America and found the world over, BRT systems have a particular relevance for financially constrained developing nations due to their relatively modest cost, as well as their dramatic benefits in terms of urban mobility and the reduction of air pollution. As such, a BRT system is well-suited to the large Lagos population. The BRT system was initially set up in Lagos in March 2008 with about 22km of roadway. But the population of the city has drastically increased since then, up from 15 million to 21 million in 2016. As a result, the 22km BRT system is no longer sufficient and needs to be further expanded in order to adequately support the growing population.
Using our waterways
A second solution is to take advantage of the waterways ever present and sprawling in Lagos. Similar to major cities such as London and New York, Lagos has a landscape largely consisting of 40% in waterways. However, unlike these cities, Lagos has not developed an adequate waterway transportation network. A few exist on a small scale, such as the speedboats at Lekki Epe Express Road or Phase 1 Lekki that move people to Apapa and other locations on the mainland. But due to the large population and existing congestion challenges, these small scale operations are not sufficient. There is great room for improvement and the population can easily support various water transportation solutions such as ferries, speedboats and flotillas. Regular commuting on waterways can greatly reduce congestion on motorways and bridges in Lagos. This can also prove to be a viable revenue generating medium for the local government, with the potential of transport on the lagoon to boost tourism, providing unique access to destinations around the metropolis.
Smart traffic measures
Back on land, a third solution to be considered is the implementation of basic transportation measures such as the efficient use of smart traffic lights at major intersections. The use of modern technology such as speed cameras and traffic radar to monitor and control bottlenecks can also go a long way to resolve congestion at peak hours.
Finally, carpooling is another out of the box short-term solution that should be considered, particularly for corporates in Lagos. Over time, the lack of adequate alternative road infrastructure has necessitated the need for an average Lagosian to own a vehicle. This attitude has created a situation whereby private vehicles capable of transporting multiple passengers, transport only the driver and one or two passengers. Carpooling can serve as an efficient alternative to regular commuters along similar routes. It is a system that creates room for shared responsibility whereby multiple passengers on similar routes can share a vehicle, reducing the number of vehicles on the road. If implemented properly, private organisations can support the initiative with a reward system for carpooling among its employees to further encourage its use and help reduce congestion in the city.
While these short-term solutions can alleviate pressures, a long-term view is needed for sustainable solutions.
Read part 2 for the long term views.
This blog is co-authored by Abdulhakeem Sadiq