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Nigeria: Evolving a Sustainable Transport System for Megacities

The BRT-Lite system was born into challenging circumstances. The Lagos metropolitan area has a population estimated at between 15 and 18 million, and projected conservatively to grow to more than 25 million by 2025. If such growth materializes, the metropolitan area would become the third largest agglomeration in the world, after Tokyo and Mumbai.

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.

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