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Evolving a sustainable transport system for megacities

Already it has expanded well beyond the boundary of Lagos State into Ogun State, and this reality was formally recognized in 2006 when Olusegun Obasanjo,…

Already it has expanded well beyond the boundary of Lagos State into Ogun State, and this reality was formally recognized in 2006 when Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, accompanied by the governors of the two states, launched the Lagos Mega City Project. At that time, Lagos was the only known megacity without any organized public transport system. Lagosians relied for their mobility on a large fleet of about 75,000 minibuses (danfo), together with smaller numbers of midi-buses (molue) and shared taxis (kabu-kabu). For local journeys, they employed motor-cycle taxis (okada).
Danfo and molue are low quality modes of transport with variable fares, and journeys are slow and uncomfortable. They favor short distances to maximize profit rather than to serve demand, and their drivers have a reputation of being aggressive.
A study of the transport situation in Lagos revealed lack of any mechanism to coordinate the plans and actions of the various agencies at the federal, state, and local government levels for managing, maintaining, and developing the transport network in a holistic and integrated manner.
LAMATA Law of 2002 established and empowered the Authority over the conurbation in Lagos State and a declared network of primary and secondary roads that carried the large bulk of road traffic, as well as the power to plan and coordinate public transport and make recommendations on route planning. LAMATA was staffed with highly motivated professionals, many former residents of Nigeria, who had experience worldwide in transport and management. LAMATA gave birth to BRT.
BRT is an alternative transportation option that relies on the use of dedicated free lanes to ensure fast and reliable bus travel. The Lagos BRT – ‘Lite system is Africa’s first Bus Rapid Transit Scheme. The project draws from best practice examples of Bogota (Columbia) and Curitiba (Brazil) but adapts the concept of African context, as BRT ‘Lite’ that is, a high quality bus system that is affordable in the local context while retaining as many of the most desirable BRT characteristics as possible.
BRT-Lite system operates to Lagos State involved the Lagos State Ministries of Transportation and of Works. Even though the BRT-Lite system is a Lagos State Government initiative, the cooperation of these bodies could not be taken for granted. One result was that the construction of the BRT-Lite infrastructure was contracted directly by LAMATA and not through the Lagos State Ministry of Works. Third, oversight of primary traffic management and enforcement in the state lies with the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, a body that reports to the State Commissioner for Transport. Co-operation between LASTMA and LAMATA improved markedly in recent years, and so LASTMA was prepared to commit to the BRT-Lite scheme the significant resources needed to protect the exclusive use of its infrastructure and to manage traffic conflicts in the box junctions at the various highway merges and demerges.
This regulation was published to coincide with the launch of the BRT-Lite system, but it had been the subject of a public education campaign in the period immediately beforehand. The regulation applied to all right of way within the BRT-Lite corridor, and so included not only the system’s running lanes but also the parallel general traffic and service lanes as well as the walkways or sidewalks.
The primary provision of the regulation prohibited the operation of vehicles other than those franchised for the BRT-Lite scheme (and certain emergency services) in the designated infrastructure. However, supporting provisions were designed to facilitate the free movement of traffic in the reduced-capacity roadway alongside the BRT-Lite running lanes, principally by restricting other commercial buses to the service lanes and totally prohibiting heavy commercial traffic during the peak hours. Although this regulation was made under the powers granted to LAMATA when it was re-established, it was also formally approved by the governor in order to preclude any challenge from other vested interests. It thus acted as the final regulatory security needed for the BRT Lite scheme.
Two contrasting approaches were taken to financing the large buses needed for the BRT-Lite system. In one approach, 100 new buses were procured by the private sector without any direct public support. In the second, 120 buses were procured by a state-owned company and then leased to the private sector operator (an additional 40 buses were operated directly by the state-owned company).
First, the scheme design gave the bank the initial lien on revenues collected from services; only the balance (after the deduction of financing costs) was passed on to the operator. The bank also was given the right to act as ticket distributor and security monitor. Second, the scheme design required the participating operators to accept collective liability for all the obligations into which they enter. Any individual default, whether by embezzlement of revenues or through vehicle unavailability (perhaps as a result of an accident or mechanical failure), would be met by an additional charge on all the remaining members. When the default was fraudulent, the individual would also lose his deposit/collateral (although this provision was deliberately set at a level that would not entail loss of all a deposit/collateral so that it would not be a deterrent to participation in the scheme).
There is need to ensure greater coordination with local planning and operating agencies for the purpose of identifying BRT potential, the need to conduct research, develop operational techniques and promote the use of ITS technology to enable safe and efficient deployment of BRT.
Bamidele wrote in from Lagos.