Lagos Traffic – A Never Ending Tale

Lagos is a big city with big problems. Top on the list of challenges that plague the city daily has to be Traffic Congestion.

Traffic congestion in Lagos is a never-ending tale. As one of the most congested cities in the world, 40 percent of cars in Nigeria are registered in Lagos. Almost every major road in the city experiences traffic gridlock of various form and size, an evidence that road space in the state continues to exceed supply.

Journey times around Lagos have remained unreliable. You can wake up by five in the morning to leave the house for six and get to the office just before eight. Other times you can wake up four in the morning, leave the house five and get to work later than eight, it all depends on the mood of the traffic on that particular day.

Although Lagos is the smallest state in Nigeria in terms of land mass, it remains the largest in terms of population and commuting within the state can be as long as traveling to Warri in extreme cases. Some persons spend more time on the road than it would a passenger heading to Ibadan from Lagos. Imagine after a stressful day at work you end up spending more than three hours in traffic for a trip that probably could have been less than 20 minutes barring any unforeseen circumstances.

To put it rather mildly, some commuters do spend close to one fourth of their whole day in traffic. Traffic congestion leads to many problems for Lagosians. People have been fired from their jobs, lives have been lost and some person’s lives have been placed on standstill due to Lagos traffic yet every effort to reduce traffic congestion in the city has been to no avail. The stress Lagosians undergo in traffic daily is even reflected in their attitude and reaction towards other people in cases of dispute.

The degree of traffic jam in the city may make you want to consider leaving your car in traffic then proceed to taking a long walk home. Studies found that professionals working in Lagos spend on an average, 3 hours 55 minutes each day in total commuting time to and from their place of work for a 15km journey, the highest in Africa. It gets longer for people commuting to work from neighboring Abeokuta, Ibadan, Mowe e.t.c

What worsens the traffic situation in Lagos state is that people head towards the same direction around the same time of the day because major companies in Lagos are situated around the same axis and people lay their heads around the same area from the Mainland to the Island. Hence there are peak periods in the morning and in the Evening when traffic congestion would drain you out. If only workers in Lagos can resume at work and close at separate times of the day instead of the usual 8a.m – 5p.m.

Even the establishment of The Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) in 2003 which led to the set-up of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that runs from north-south from the suburbs to the CBD on Lagos Island has not made matters any better.  Over 200,000 thousand use BRT’s daily supported by an enormous fleet of yellow buses called ‘danfos’ who carry more than their designated number of passengers and stop at any point of a major road. There are also mass transit buses that ply Lagos roads depending on the route you are headed.

Worse still, the traffic situation in Lagos does not walk alone, it is accompanied by his siblings, noise and air pollution.

It has been argued that the traffic congestion in the city is as a result of increasing growth in population and motor vehicles without a corresponding improvement in traffic facilities such as road network and traffic management techniques.

Even if more roads are constructed in the state, it doesn’t change the fact that people would stop buying cars and our population will stop increasing. In China – the most populated country in the world, increasingly popular bike-sharing services have helped ease traffic congestion in big cities, but can Lagos do the same? You know the answer right? Why would I leave my fancy car that I flaunt for all to see at home to go on a bicycle?

Summarily, bad roads, trading activities, on street parking, poor drainage, frequent vehicle breakdown, narrow road sections, religious activities, high volume of traffic, lack of parking space, menace of area boys and unscrupulous police men, lack of traffic light at some road intersections, bad attitude of many Lagos drivers, over dependence in road transportation are the reasons why traffic congestion will remain a constant feature of Lagos state.

They say Lagos has a master plan but there’s a difference between a plan and a paper-work. Is there really a holistic plan for Lagos and Lagosians in their entirety or is it just restricted to a particular place and people?

Maybe more people need to use the waterways to put less pressure on Lagos roads but then how many people are comfortable commuting on water.

No doubt  there is a need for more infrastructural developments covering other parts of Lagos not just Lagos Island because sometimes commuting from Lagos Island to Lagos Mainland feels like two different states in one region.

The traffic situation in Lagos state is a product of awful planning and congestion in the city and no government has been able to find a solution to it.

Regardless, we await the completion of the Lagos Light Rail project, proposed to start operations in 2022. Hopefully this should alleviate the plight of Lagosians who spend a good fraction of their lives in traffic.

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