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Analysis of Traffic Congestion in Lagos State - Part I

Posted 10:56am, Fri 14th March, 2014 by Trafficchief

It's no secret that Traffic Congestion is one of the major problems facing the Economic Prosperity of Lagos State. Unfortunately, the problem is a complex one and cannot be fixed simply by just widening the existing roads. There has been many valiant attempts by the State Government to mitigate this issue, such as; fixing and widening of major roads, commissioning of new roads and strategically located bridges, introduction of Bus rapid transport (BRT), social awareness campaigns, etc. But the truth is we're not seeing the kind of change we would all like to.

Before we start brainstorming on possible solutions to this traffic problem we must first investigate into the root causes of Traffic congestion in the state and analyze existing traffic patterns (when exactly are people most likely to be on the road and why?). The aim of this post is to take a step back and take an objective look at the situation and to come up with practical and affordable solutions to the problems we're facing.

Traffic Patterns
Before we go into the causes of Traffic Congestion one by one, let's also consider all the regular patterns that emerge when we put Traffic in Lagos under the magnifying glass. When exactly are people most likely to be on the road? and Why? Here are some of the most common scenarios in which Traffic Congestion are likely to occur:

  1. The Morning Rush to Work (e.g. the 8 to 5 Worker)
  2. Lunch Time Movement
  3. The Evening Rush back Home from Work (e.g. the 8 to 5 Worker)
  4. Miscellaneous Movement
  5. Sunday Morning trip to Church
  6. Weekend Events in General

Ok back to the matter at hand, we were talking about the Major causes of Traffic and practical and affordable ways to either prevent or mitigate them:

What is the cause of Traffic in Lagos?
In reality there is no one single cause. Traffic congestion is as a result of so many factors all working together in chaotic harmony to ensure that the Lagos streets remain congested. Here is the most exhaustive list we could come up with arranged in no particular order of importance:

  1. Way too many Cars on the Road
  2. Poor Road Maintenance (e.g. Pot Holes, Garbage on roads)
  3. Road Traffic Accident (RTA) and the Spectator Effect
  4. Poor Vehicle Conditions and Breakdowns
  5. Inefficient Traffic Light Configuration
  6. Force Majeure (e.g. Rain, Floods, Fuel Scarcity queues)
  7. Events (Wedding Receptions, Religious Conferences, Presidential Visits)
  8. Poor Driving Culture (e.g. Impatience, especially amongst commercial bus drivers)
  9. Road Repairs and Construction Work

For each cause we're going to give a brief description of what it's about and then we're going to brainstorm on ways we can fix it or at least reduce its severity.

1. Way too many Cars on the Road
This is probably the single greatest factor causing Traffic Congestion in Lagos. So what can be done to reduce the number of cars on the road?

Bus Transportation
Kudos to the State Government and other Private Sector players for investing in the BRT initiative. However, although it's being patronized by a lot of people, it's not really contributing as much as we would like to reducing the number of vehicles on the road. BRT is serving as a cheaper and safer alternative to commercial buses (Danfo) but the problem is it's not convincing the middle class to abandon their cars.

This reminds me of a famous quote:

"A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation." - @petrogustavo Mayor of Bogota

There have been a few attempts to tap into this market. Some notable mentions include Yellow Navigation that seeks to capture this market by offering comfortable, air-conditioned, wi-fi enabled mobile-office-like transportation for paying customers to transport them to their office in the morning and back home at the end of the day. Will such initiatives help to reduce the number of cars on the road? Let's wait and see.

Water & Rail as Alternate Transportation Methods
Water and Rail transportation are two transport methods that are greatly underutilized but have plenty potential to reduce Traffic Congestion in the State. The State Government are slowly waking up to this fact and there are several projects underway to take advantage of these opportunities like the Lagos State Mass Rail Transit and the construction of Floating Jetties at strategic locations to facilitate Waterway Transportation.

Carpooling or Vehicle Sharing
Although not officially recognized in Lagos, Carpooling has been in existence and operation for some time now. An example of Carpooling is when a group of family members, friends, colleagues or even complete strangers band together and share a single car going in a common direction. This concept has many benefits; it provides a cheap and comfortable mode of transport, helps reduces the number of cars on the road, saves you money, and did we mention it's environmentally friendly as it reduces carbon emission and subsequently air pollution!

Government backing would ensure that the initiative gets widespread awareness and some smart and carefully crafted promotional campaigns would ensure a lot more people oblivious of its existence get onboard.

Bicycle Transportation
Bicycle Transportation within this context refers to close proximity cycling, and no we don't expect you to ride a bicycle all the way from your house in Mainland to your workplace on the Island.

Following the outright Ban of Commercial Motorcycles (Okada), most civilians have been forced to either walk to close proximity locations or drive. When we say close-proximity locations we mean for example, going to a nearby canteen for lunch or dashing to the shopping mall to buy something. Everyone is feeling the void left by the ban of Okada but what could possibly fill that void? Keke Napep?

The idea of Bicycle Transportation has been tossed around a couple of times. It has been hugely successful in some Other Countries but will the same hold true in Lagos given the cultural differences? We came up with a pretty interesting Business Case for the implementation of Bicycle Transportation in Lagos and we'll feature it in a subsequent Blog Post.


2. Poor Road Maintenance
It's a known fact that we have a very Poor Maintenance Culture here in Nigeria. We're not just talking about Roads here, this statement spans to almost every orifice of the economy but let's just stick to roads for meantime. Most of our roads are constructed with substandard materials which exposes it's faults quickly after much patronage and rains. The resulting potholes greatly hinders the smooth flow of traffic and causes buildup as vehicles slow down one by one to cautiously navigate the surface of the pothole.

Oh and let's not forget about all the garbage and debris like rocks and disposed tires that at times litter the streets also contributing to traffic buildup!

In the next part we're gonna pickup form where we left off and take a look at Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) and the Spectator Effect.

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