On assumption of Office in May 2015, the Akinwunmi Ambode-administration was confronted with a huge traffic situation that was further compounded by the activities of criminals taking advantage of the situation to rob commuters and others.
The unyielding traffic jams created a cacophony of noise that made many to forget that traffic congestion has been a growing problem which successive administrations in the State have had to contend with right from the ‘80s when government resorted to issuance of “Odd” and “Even” number plates to allow motorists ply certain routes within specified periods. The LASTMA, LAGBUS, LAMATA, Traffic Radio, BRT system among others all came on board as part of efforts to ensure sanity and safety on Lagos roads.
In response to the situation, the State government identified that the situation required strategic and creative intervention that would not only be diagnostic and curative, but backed by proper policy articulation and focused implementation which must offer immediate, short and permanent resolution of the traffic nightmare.
The Traffic Summit held in November 2015 at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, was an integral part of the policy response of the State government to the traffic gridlock challenges. It was the administration’s determination that the Summit should set a new course for an aggressive public transportation template as the pathway to the much desired improved and modernized transportation system befitting of the state, capable of driving rapid economic growth and which will make mobility predictable, safer and comparable to the best transportation systems in other mega –cities.
The submissions of the Summit were very holistic, detailing far-reaching policy recommendations and an elaborate implementation strategies backed by a robust funding cycle. It was the dedication of the Ambode administration to the full implementation of the Summit’ recommendations that is today changing the transportation narratives of the State for good.
Lagos is currently pursuing an integrated affordable multi-modal transport system that will ensure that citizens arrive their destinations in the least possible time frame, using the State public transport in concord to a former Mayor of Bogota postulation that, ‘a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport’.
Consequently, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA and Lagos Bus Services Limited, LBSL, have been working assiduously on the gradual re-fleeting of the 14-18-seater yellow mini bus with a 40-Passenger Medium and 80-Passenger High Capacity buses to reduce the number of buses plying the State’s roads, improve ecology of the State through reduction in carbon emission, improve the travel time and activate Private Public Partnership (PPP). This will likewise encourage many more people to leave their cars at home and use the buses thereby reducing traffic congestion.
The prototype bus have been identified, inspected and approved while contract for supply of the first set of buses has been awarded. With the take-off of the 820 high capacity buses from the Ikeja Bus Terminal in September, Lagos seems set to alter its transportation landscape. The buses may also become the biggest money spinner for the Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration.
To guard against indiscriminate parking of the buses when the project kicks off, six Bus Terminals and Depots, complementary infrastructural facilities for the smooth operation of the programme, are being developed in the Ikeja axis. Terminals and Depots‘ which are at various completion levels are also being developed at Agege, Ishaga, Iyana Ipaja, Idumota, and on the Island by the Central Mosque. Others are located at Maryland, Oworonshoki, Oyingbo, Ojota and Yaba. The premier Bus Terminal of the Project was commissioned by His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Thursday, March 29, 2018.
Another major feature of the Bus Reform Project is its job creation component as drivers and Bus Attendants, who will be professionally trained and well kitted, will be deployed on the air conditioned buses. As the Project has factored in their regular maintenance, other corporate bodies, aside the Bus Operating Companies would be involved in its sub-activities such as ticketing, vulcanizing, cleaning/washing etc, to complement the efficiency of the buses.
Flowing from the BRT success story on other corridors of its operations, the State has shifted attention to the Oshodi-Abule Egba corridor for the provision of high quality bus service for the teeming populace in the Alimosho Local Government Area, which arguably, is acknowledged as the most densely populated part of the State as well as being the largest local government in Africa. In apparent preparation for the phasing out of Danfos, the government is currently working on a project that will provide an uninterrupted Median running BRT service with its lanes in the middle of the popular Lagos –Abeokuta Expressway.
The intention is to relieve the route of the burden of over 5,600 buses that currently service the 13.65 km route. It will provide, in the course of the project, fourteen (14) Bus Stations, 11 pedestrian bridges across the corridor, 1 Bus Depot and 3 Bus Terminals at Oshodi, Iyana Ipaja and Abule Egba. The project has reached the 24% mark.
The narrative of finding solution to transportation challenge in the state, meanwhile, is not limited to road transport. For instance, the State has achieved 95% completion level on the Mile 2-National Theatre segment of the light rail project. Focus has, therefore, shifted to National Theatre-Marina segment which has attained 65% completion level. Currently, on-going works include boring of piles, construction of pile caps, piers and pier caps, pre-inspection of pier positions to determine underground utilities as we as boring of piles across the lagoon among others. As well, all bailey beam form works have been completed at Marina while fabrication of steel cages and casings, painting of reinforcement with antirust, seawall strengthening, and the removal of shipwrecks in the lagoon are all on course.
The Ambode administration has also embarked on rehabilitation/upgrading of existing non-functional Traffic Signal Light (TSL) installations and maintenance of functional ones while ensuring daily monitoring of TSL installations in the State through its officials, LASTMA Personnel, Vehicle Inspection Officers and good spirited members of the public whose efforts have been supported with the provision of Call User Group Telephone Mobile Lines. TSL has helped to improve the culture of sanity and predictability that governs the queue theories on the roads and at junctions leading to improved traffic flow, commuting time, productivity, reduced loss of man-hours and increase functionality of road safety infrastructure and furniture.
In the end, it is crucial for members of the public to cooperate with the government in completely rewriting the public transport narrative of the State and also desist from damaging road furniture which are installed for the benefit of all.
- Musbau is of the Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Ikeja.