Lagos population is estimated to consist of over 15 million people, and according to the United Nations projection, by 2015, the population will be 20 million making it the 3rd largest city in the world. With over 4 million cars and 100,000 commercial vehicles on the roads (when the national average is 11 vehicles per kilometer), Lagos daily records an average of 227 vehicles per every kilometer of roads. One of the major fallouts of this scenario is the scary Lagos traffic gridlock.
To address the situation, subsequent administrations have expanded and rehabilitated major roads across the State. Also, the Bus Rapid Transit scheme, BRT, was developed to advance mass transit. Similarly, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, was created for efficient management of traffic while the first traffic radio station in the country, Lagos Traffic Radio, came on board in May, 2012. Equally, the Lagos Drivers’ Institute was set up in June, 2008 to improve and moderate driving culture in the State.
Presently, the Ambode administration is working on other means to improve public transportation in the state. It recently held a stakeholders’ summit on the way forward for public transportation in the State. Equally, the scope of LASTMA’s operation in the area of enforcement of traffic laws has been expanded. An exercise aimed at recruiting more hands to strengthen the body has just been concluded. Mass transit development is also on-going as evidenced in the recent commissioning of the Ikorodu BRT and injection of over 200 new buses into the fleet is an integral part of this plan. Also, ‘Operation Zero Tolerance for Pot Holes’, which has led to the rehabilitation over 280 roads across the state, is in progress. Similarly, more inner routes are being developed.
It is, however, important to stress that public transportation could only become efficient and seamless in Lagos with an effective intermodal system. Intermodal transportation system pertains to the availability of more than one form of transportation such as road, rail, air and water on a single journey. It centers on the movements of passengers or freight from one mode of transport to another, commonly taking place at a terminal specifically designed for such a purpose. For instance, a good model of intermodal transportation should allow a commuter from Ikorodu to connect Lagos Island by water while a commuter from Orile could connect same place vial light rail and others by road. Over reliance on inadequate network of roads has, over the years, been the bane of a developed transportation system in Lagos and Nigeria in general.
A comprehensive policy of integrated intermodal transport programmes for Lagos was conceived in 1999 and subsequently reviewed in 2007 to become integrated intermodal multi-modal transport policy with strong commitment to develop all transportation modes such as road, water and rail and integrate them effectively and efficiently. Between 1999 and 2015, roads such as Awolowo way, Ikoyi; Itire-Lawanson-Ojuelegba in Surulere; Ikotun-Igando; Adeola Odeku; Kudirat Abiola Way, Olorunsogo-Mushin-Moshalasi, Akin Adesola and Ilupeju bye pass to Agege Motor road Bourdillon-Alexander-Gerrard; Ago Palace way in Okota; Commercial Avenue, Hughes and other roads in Ebute-Metta; Joseph Dosu in Badagry; Sunny Balogun in Abule Egba; Dr. Nurudeen Olowopopo, CBD Ikeja; Eric Moore, Akerele from Alhaji Mashaa to Ogunlana Drive and Bode Thomas in Surulere, among numerous others, represent evidences of this commitment. This is addition to the 62 kilometer, 10 lane Lagos – Badagry Expressway being built with Light Rail and BRT Corridor.
For a long time, rail transportation was an exclusive preserve of the federal government. However, current realities show that the benefits of rail transportation need to be greatly exploited for states with high commuter ratio as Lagos. Hence, in 2008, the state government commenced the implementation of the Blue Line Corridor as identified in the Lagos State Strategic Transport Master Plan. This is an ambitious projects designed to tap the vast potential of this mode of transportation for the benefit of Lagosians. Therefore, the ongoing construction of 27 kilometer Blue Light Rail tracks is yet another first by any State government in Nigeria. When completed, the Light Rail will transport over 400,000 passengers per day and reduce vehicular traffic along East-West Okokomaiko-Mile 2-Orile-CMS routes by about 30 percent. The implementation of the Red Light Rail Line is also at an advanced stage.
The State government has equally invested in the establishment of enabling structure, processes and regulations for water transportation. The development of water transportation is to further ensure an affordable and high quality network of integrated ferry services with barrier free navigation access for benefit of all waterways users. This is done in such a way that it offers more choices to individuals, communities and businesses while protecting, maintaining and enhancing the unique conservation status of the aquatic splendor which covers a total length of 180 km waterfront and water area of 777.56sq kilometers. Five additional jetties have been established at Ipakodo in Ikorodu, Badore in Ajah, Mile 2 in Amuwo- Odofin and Osborne in Lekki. The Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) also undertook the construction of jetties and terminals at Ebute-Ojo and Ijegun-Egba as it also resuscitated Agboyi-Ketu and Epe jetties. Presently, passenger traffic has grown to over one million passengers per month and it is increasing. This has also created additional new jobs with economic multiplier effects on individuals, families and society.
On the whole, the need to embrace intermodal transportation mode cannot be over-emphasized, given the complex and indispensable nature of the sector in Lagos. By the time the Lagos light rail project becomes effective and expanded, coupled with renewed efforts to improve water transportation in addition to numerous on-going roads development projects across the State, it is expected that a more robust public transportation would evolve in the State and Lagosians would be the better for it. But then, we all need to join hands with the state government to make this dream a reality by protecting public infrastructure as well as strictly adhering to all traffic rules and regulations.
Ogunbiyi writes from Alausa, Ikeja.