The cost of traffic gridlock in Lagos metropolis
Lagos is one of the largest cities in the world in terms of population and population density. Although, it is the smallest state in Nigeria with a total size area of 357, 7000 hectares, it is most populated with an estimated population of 21 million, a population density of 4, 193 persons per square kilometre generally and 20, 000 persons per square kilometre in built-up areas of the metropolis.
Lagos is the commercial, economic, as well as financial capital of Nigeria accounting for over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial establishments, as well as 70 per cent of manufacturing activities. In addition, it had the most active stock exchange in West Africa; its four ports collectively handle about 75 per cent of the country’s imports by weight and 90 percent of non-oil exports by weight. What was more, the international airport in the city handled about 80 per cent of airborne exports and imports and 80 per cent of passenger movements in and out of the country.
The movement of the capital from Lagos to Abuja hardly affected the status of Lagos as the largest and pre-eminent city in Nigeria. The state’s population had continued to grow quite rapidly – put at between six to eight percent per annum – and is a dragnet for school leavers and other economic migrants from other parts of the country. It is projected that the population of the city will grow to 36 million by 2020.
Despite its huge population and importance, the city’s most common and available means of transportation was road. Rail and water transportation were relatively under-developed in Lagos. Years of military rule, under investment and under maintenance of existing transport infrastructure had seen Lagos lagged behind other major cities in the utilisation of efficient public transportation system such as urban rail system and modern high capacity buses. Growing population continued to put pressure on existing transport infrastructure and non-maintenance saw to their gradual decay. As at 2006, it was estimated that the city’s transport infrastructure and services were at levels that supported a population of six million some 20 years ago.
Despite its huge population however, the city’s most common and available means of transportation was road. Rail and water transportation were relatively under-developed in Lagos. Years of military rule, under investment and under maintenance of existing transport infrastructure had seen Lagos lagged behind other major cities of the world in the utilisation of efficient public transportation system such as urban rail system and modern high capacity buses. Growing population continued to put pressure on existing transport infrastructure and non-maintenance saw to their gradual decay. As at 2006, it was estimated that the city’s transport infrastructure and services were at levels that supported a population of six million some 23 years ago.
In 2006, the government developed a transportation master plan that will integrate road, water, rail, and cable-car transportation to provide one of the most efficient systems of transportation in a megacity. Shortly after, in 2008, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was launched as a stop-gap measure while seven train lines were planned to link all parts of the states and even Ogun state with light rail. However, due to paucity of funds, only the contract for the blue line (the 27-kilometre Badagry line running from Okokomaiko to Marina via Iddo) was awarded at the cost of $1.2 billion to be completed in 2011. It was projected others will be awarded subsequently and the entire Master Plan will be completed in 2020.
However, since then, the blue line is yet to be completed and there is no indication that the state government is still interested or working to meet the timeline of the Master Plan.
The absence of a modern transport infrastructure in Lagos and the consequent heavy traffic gridlocks on the roads comes with huge costs to the city and its inhabitants, the state, the country and the economy. Recently, the Lagos state governor revealed that the state loses over N250 billion to traffic annually. This is besides the billions of Naira lost to businesses and families daily due to the excruciating traffic lock jam that see people spending four or more hours in a 30 minute journey. Also, the Managing Director of Planet Projects recently disclosed that the result of a recent study indicates that at least three of every ten years spent in Lagos is lost to traffic. It means Lagosians spend an average of seven hours 20 minutes in traffic every day. This is taking a heavy toll on the health of road users, reducing their lifespan and adversely affecting their productivity as well as the economy of the nation.
The economic as well as health, emotional and relational cost of traffic in Lagos is colossal and unacceptable. Providing efficient means of transportation is not nuclear science and can be done within relatively short time. However, successive Lagos state governments, on their part, have shown that the provision of efficient means of transportation is not one of their priorities. Lagosians, civil society and various unions can begin to mount pressure on the government to priorities provision of efficient mean of transportation.
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