Lagos Transportation: Putting a strategic plan in place

We are just wrapping up our first full week in Lagos and we have met so many interesting people, and have learned a lot. The problem is clear: Simply too many people, cars, trucks, buses, vans, and other modes of transportation crowding the city. What’s encouraging is that the government agencies are well aware of the dire situation, with population expected to double in the next ten years (to 40 million) , and have started laying out a strategic plan. Some of the new projects are already underway. In fact, the city opened a brand new bridge this week to span two key parts of the  city. The Ministry of Transportation shared their vision for building a smarter transportation system, current projects underway, and their plans for the next several years. Here is an illustration of a new dedicated bus lane they are creating to help move the hundreds of city buses through the city:

lagos bus

Here’s a view of new rail track being installed:

lagos train

They are truly thinking about every mode of transportation. There is one section of the city that has an extremely high concentration of citizens, and because of waterways and other terrain challenges, it can take people 2 hours to travel a mile or so. In this area (circled in red below), they are planning to build a series of cable cars:

cable car

As we meet with the various government officials, bus riders, other commuters, and some of our local colleagues, we’re hearing some common themes. People want safe, reliable, and comfortable transportation alternatives. The majority of people either drive in a car to work or school, or take one of the unlicensed vans (danfos) running all over the city.

Beyond focusing on improving transportation within the current city limits, the government also wants to use transportation options to literally expand the city limits. By building rail lines and bus services well outside the current “city,” people and businesses will be encouraged to start moving into those areas. They will live and work in less congested regions, but still have the ability to get into Lagos by bus, train, ferry or other modes of transportation. This can be good for the citizens, good for businesses, and improve overall congestion in the region.

Here are some random facts we picked up on this week:

– All houses and businesses run on their own generators. There are no power lines with electricity. Generators power the city.

– Only 30 percent of city buses are operational due to maintenance and other issues.

– The city of Lagos has 87 traffic lights today (not all operational) and plan to have more than 300 in the next few years.

– Most people carry several (2-6) mobile phones. When one carrier is down, they use a different phone.

– 20 million trips are made each day (a trip is a single person traveling to work, school, or wherever they’re headed). That is expected to double in the next 10 years too.

– More people are taking to the waterways. Ridership on the Lagos ferry system has quickly grown from 300,000 per month to 1.5 million per month. People simply want to get out of the road traffic at any cost.

What’s exciting is that the locals and government officials have truly welcomed us and are eager to have us help. So we have an opportunity to influence the improvements being made now and in the future here in Lagos. It’s exciting to be part of something that can have such an enormous impact on so many people, all part of  IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge (#smartercities Challenge). Here is a photo of our team with the key government officials:

team with govt

We have some interesting plans arranged for the weekend. We will be working with a local organization to pack meals and deliver them to people who really need help.

On top of it all, it’s been great getting to know my teammates: Shelly Lowe, Rob Wilmot, Brad Gibson and Marc Segre.

To close things out, just a nice photo I took on our way to the office this morning:



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