Lagos: Innovative Approach To Public Transportation



By Tayo Ogunbiyi

For any government worth its salt, innovation is a key ingredient of governance. Aside being a necessary tool of governance, innovation is a continuous thing as it has no finishing point. Hence, the Lagos State Government is continuously thinking and working to improve the lot of the people as evident in all the developmental projects being executed across the state. The public transportation sector is one key area which the state government has continued to develop through several innovative models. Recently, the first cable/suspended bridge in Nigeria and, indeed, the entire West Africa, which abounds in creative splendour, was handed over for the use of Lagosians by the state government. The 1.38km bridge connects Ikoyi-Alexander Street to Lekki-Admiralty Way. Similarly, the innovative Lagos Traffic Radio has equally continued to help Lagosians in navigating their ways across the ever busy Lagos roads.

The state government’s novel approach to public transportation is quite understandable as transportation remains the pivot around which the wheel of every modern economy revolves. The efficiency with which people, goods and services can move from one point to the other largely determines the quality of life of the society. Lagos is the undisputed economic nerve centre of West Africa, with every potential to become the 3rd largest mega city in the world after Shanghai and Mumbai. With over 3 million cars and 100,000 commercial vehicles on the roads. When the national average is 11 vehicles per kilometre, Lagos daily records an average of 227 vehicles per kilometre of roads. It is, therefore, obvious that for the state to make modest accomplishments in the sector, government has to put on its thinking cap.

The introduction of a Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, scheme in 2008, is one of the innovative responses of the state government aimed at tackling the issue of mass transit in the state. Equally, as part of its effort to ensure sanity on the road, government established the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute in order to improve traffic and transportation problems in the state and positively change the driving culture of motorists. The Institute, which has centres in all the five divisions of the state, is equipped with eye testing equipment, computerized driving simulators, biometric data capture and data base equipment. Aside the institute, LASTMA has continued to play its statutory role of ensuring free flow of traffic in the state. Despite the perceived excesses of some of its men, the contribution of LASTMA in this respect cannot be underestimated. To ensure that its presence is felt across the state, government recently recruited more men into LASTMA. Consequently, its operatives are all over the state ensuring that traffic moves.

In line with the mega city status of Lagos, government introduced a new modern taxi scheme in 2008 to be operated by corporate firms with the major aim of providing a more secure taxi operation that will enhance the confidence of the citizens of the state and to create more jobs in the transportation sector in a formal manner. The first Modern Taxi Scheme-Corporate Cabs were launched by Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola on 26 August, 2008.

In continuation of the innovative strategy to streamline public transportation, the state government is currently on the verge of bringing on board another life-changing experience for commuters in the state. The long awaited cable car project is almost reaching completion stage and very soon, Lagosians would begin to enjoy the services of cable cars in the state. Cable car, which is part of the Apapa model city plan, would transit between Apapa and Falomo, via Lagos Island. This is a demonstration of the commitment of the state government to activating every means of transportation in the state in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Cable car is a veritable means of fast and unhindered transportation and it is expected that its introduction in the state would bring succour to commuters.

Similarly, much is being done in the area of rail transportation as the blue light rail project, which is being projected to transport over 19.2 million Lagosians annually, is expected to be commissioned before the end of 2014. Through the blue light rail, Lagosians would be transported from Mile 2 to Marina, a journey of about 13.5 kilometres, in the shortest possible time.

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Equally, water transportation is also progressing in the state as government has concluded the dredging and signalization of the 32km water route from Badore to Ijede. Similarly, the Badore and Ikorodu terminals have virtually been completed except for minor finishing works preparatory to opening. Today, from one operation route in 2007, government is running water transport on 12 routes (Ikorodu-Marina/CMS; Marina – Mile 2; Ikorodu – Addax/Falomo; Ikorodu-Ebute Ero; Marina-Ijegun, Egba-Ebute-Ojo; Mile 2 – Marina/CMS-Mekwen-Falomo; Badore – Ijede; Badore – Five Cowries; Marina – Oworonshoki; Ebute Ojo – Ijegun Egba; Oworonshoki – Five Cowries and Baiyeku – Langbasa). Today, through improved water transportation, an estimated two million Lagosians travel daily across the state.

With a very effective and efficient ferry service system in operation, side by side with the now tested BRT system and very comfortable privately operated taxis already functional alongside the introduction of cable car and blue light rail, it is obvious that the Lagos State Government is already breaking new grounds in the transportation sector. To grow the Lagos economy into one of the model Mega Cities in Africa, embracing the best practices in the transportation/urban mobility cannot be overlooked. This is why, in the last 14 years, priority attention had been paid to the improvement of urban mobility through the development of roads, water ways and rail lines.

As stated earlier, innovation is a continuous process. Consequently, to integrate innovation into its daily activities, the state government is taking on a leading role in promoting science, technology and innovation as core policy areas that not only hold the key to the state’s future, but could also make it one of the continent’s innovation leaders. There should be no illusion; cities that fail to harness the power of innovation will eventually become the customers of those that do. They would become dump sites to all kinds of goods and products from diverse places across the globe. They would become slaves in their own lands. It is in a bid to forestall this from being the lot of Lagos that the state government is bent on consistently finding new ways to combat local challenges in order to deliver previously unforeseen value.

The connotation of the innovative and inspirational governance at work in the state is that visionary and innovative leadership is most desirable if our country is to disconnect itself from its embarrassing and ignoble past. As the commercial hub for West Africa, the implications of innovation-driven growth for Lagos are both exciting and alarming. A failure to frame and harness innovation might consign future generations of Lagosians to material dependency on those African cities that had seized the mantle when they had the opportunity. This is why the state government strives hard to create an environment in which entrepreneurs can come up with the most innovative products and services.

The beautiful thing, however, is that the Lagos state government is not resting on its oars. It would be unbecoming to do otherwise. This is Lagos, the Centre of Excellence. The benchmarks are cities of the world that are working where visible developmental projects, aside mere figures, are the yardsticks for adjudging successful governments.

•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja