Lagos' Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) provides the backdrop to "My Smelling Mouth Problem", one of the stories in Igoni Barrett's collection Love is Power, or Something Like That.
In the past decade, the population of Nigeria has grown from around 100 million to about 180 million. If this growth continues, Nigeria will be home to around 300 million people in 2040 - all living in a space roughly double the size of California. The coastal city of Lagos is not only Nigeria's largest port, it is also the country's economic and financial hub, with a population of over 8 million and growing.
Fast population growth, combined with a lack of planning and management, left Lagos with an unreliable public transportation system far too small to cope with demand - consisting primarily of minibuses, known as danfos (capacity of 8 to 25 passengers) and larger buses known as molues (capacity of 30 to 50). Clearly Lagos (a C40 city, which means it is dedicated to reduce greenhouse emissions) needed a new, efficient and eco-friendly transportation system.
Such a system moved from idea to reality in 2008 when the Nigerian government opened the BRT system with the help of the International Development Association of the World Bank. The system is the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa an example of a comprehensive and integrated approach to improving public transportation. The Lagos Urban Transport Project for Nigeria (the organization that oversaw the project) aimed to improve capacity as well as the efficiency of public transport in the greater Lagos metropolitan area. The BRT buses, which currently cover 22-kilometers (13.5 miles) run in segregated lanes so they can function as smoothly as a subway system with timely arrivals and high-capacity options.
Two years after the BRT opened, the World Bank reported that the daily time and money spent by poor households on travel had been reduced from 90 minutes and 150 Naira (the official currency of Nigeria) in 2003, to 23 minutes and 100 Naira. In addition, money spent by poor households on public transportation as a share of income had been reduced from 17% in 2003 to 11%.
More recently, the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit system garnered praise from Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, who stated that the BRT initiative is one of the "ready-to-go solutions that can be implemented quickly in cities with serious transportation challenges" and called upon local leaders to continue to provide the support needed to solve public transportation challenges, pointing out that public backing will remain strong if constituents can get to work at reduced cost and in less time.
Although there has been widespread praise for the BRT, there has been no shortage of complaints as well. Riders have complained that the buses have not been maintained properly; that they are not as timely as they used to be, and that the drivers are rude and reckless.
Currently there are 220 BRT buses which have carried over 240 million passengers since the system opened in 2008. A second phase of the project is in the works, with plans to add an additional 13.5 km to the corridor. In addition, LAMATA is working on a 13-station rail project - one of seven rail lines planned for Lagos.
Pictures from Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority
This article is from the June 19, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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