By Ishola Balogun
Four years after the Bus Rapid Transport, BRT, was launched in Lagos to ease the movement of people from one place to another, the laudable project is fast turning into nightmare as stories of pain and discomfort have continued to trail the services offered by the operators amid growing need for easy and faster means of movement in the state.
The essence of the Bus Rapid Transit system was to address the transport problems in the state, providing a reliable, easy, affordable, faster and cost-effective road transportation system within the metropolis. Many lauded the initiative.
With the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA, as the regulating body, the BRT-blue buses are being run by the National Union of Road Transport Workers Cooperative in conjunction with the Lagos state government while the LAGBUS, red buses, is an asset management company owned by the state government. The two bus services run on segregated lanes provided by LAMATA and the government.
Against the backdrop of what it intended to achieve, commuters using the transport system are constantly overloaded; amid reckless driving, bad state of bus corridors, discourteous remarks even after several hours lost in waiting for the bus. To so many Lagosians, it has become a nightmare rather than a relief from the usual pain in moving from one place to another.
The concept of the system at inception was to provide comfort, fast movement, and decency, but that original idea is now being washed away by long queues at bus terminals resulting in loss of several hours while waiting, even under the scorching sunshine, or thunderous rainfall. Only a few places have bus-shelters which barely could provide shelter when it is raining.
From the Ikorodu axis to Mile 12, down to Obalende, the story is the same. When the service was launched four years ago, Lagosians were told that the buses will leave the terminal every five minutes so that passengers would not have to wait till a bus gets filled up before they leave from one point to another.
Unlike in some of the countries where this idea was taken, it was expected to be fast, rapid and efficient. But those are the the hallmark of the Lagos BRT and LAGBUS.
Besides, BRT drivers throttle past recommended speed limits, divert into all road lanes without adhering to basic traffic precautions or pay any attention to safety of other road users. A passenger commented: “these are common with drivers of those buses under Private/government initiative.
They speed without caution and they do all sorts of things while driving like talking and discussing with passengers which could cause some distraction. In other buses like the government initiative LAGBUS, they don’t do that. The problem with those ones are that they don’t have enough buses on the road to run their routes.” he said.
The state of the BRT corridors is also a matter for concern.
The corridors along Ketu-Mile 12, Ketu-Ojota are in a state not befitting a rapid transport service like the BRT. Most cities that BRT is used have good road network and very broad roads to even contain the road demarcation for the BRT buses.
This is not the same in Lagos because our roads are not broad yet, they were demarcated. This is one of the reasons some buses avoid the corridors though when the traffic is light and struggle with other vehicles on the regular roads.
A passenger at the Mile 12 terminal waiting for bus to convey him to his destination remarked that this was not the BRT that the government of the state promised at the inception of the transport system arguing that it has translated into another Molue put together to run on separate lane .
The stated that there is proper management as “the project is running without proper management coordination and maintenance,” he said.
He added that some of the buses imported were substandard and fragile which made them suffer wear and tear easily. “after four years, we are beginning to see the the quality these buses are made off.
Aside the LAGBUS which has better quality buses like the Daewoo and Marco Polo, other ones are not durable and most often than not, you see them breaking down at the corridors and making it difficult for other buses to use the corridors at that point in time,” he said.
The traffic volume during the peak hours for example appears to be far more than what the available buses can carry, couple with the fact that it is usually in one direction. This makes it difficult for users of the BRT and LAGBUS to wait endlessly for buses to their destinations.
In fact , this to a large extent is said to be responsible for the excessive loading passengers in available buses.
The bus is not meant to carry more than 76 passengers at once in the form of 40 sitting and 36 standing; but because of the long queues, commuters are encouraged to packed themselves in a bus, thereby eroding the original idea of providing comfort, convenience and safety.
Most buses are seen carrying about 120 passengers from one destination to the other especially in the peak periods. The various terminal of the buses are also antithetical to the concept of the BRT in some of the advanced countries where it was copied. Lagosians were told at the inception of the system that car parks will be provided at the terminals so that car owners can park their cars and join the BRT that travel unhindered on the reserved lanes to their destination.
When Saturday Vanguard visited the Mile 12 BRT terminal at a peak period, such facilities were not in place, in fact, a few yet-to-be loaded buses struggle for space, thereby causing traffic jam at under the Mile 12 bridge.
At the passengers waiting lounge, only a few seats were seen which can barely take a dozen of people. At the extension, passengers were seen on long cyclical queue with a few available buses on hand. The standing queue was as long as the bridge.
Why has the terminals not been made to integrate with other other transport system like ferry and rail if it was part of the original plan. The CMC/Leventis bus station would have served that purpose if LAMATA had considered other ways of decongesting the road transport system in Lagos.
A staff of the LAMATA who prefered anonymity hinted that the authority was only saddleed with the responsibility to reguate the services of the buses and would not go outside its responsibility.
The Commissioner of Transport, Mr Kayode Opeifa could not be reached for comments. All efforts made by Saturday Vanguard to get him to speak proved abortive.
Inspite of all the shortcomings, some still adjudged the coming of the BRT services as the best thing that has happened in the state. Ayeni Oladimeji who claims he uses the BRT services often especially from the Ikorodu-Mile 12 to CMS route commented thus: “It is a brilliant idea by the state government as it helps reduce stress, the Shylock and greed of the yellow-bus commercial operators, hold up on the road among others. No matter what you say, it is still cheaper, fast compared to others. Before you know it, you are at your designated place and its reliable.”
He however took a swipe at the poor customer relation of the staff. He added that they also delay passengers at their check points, advising that the staff should be properly trained on how to relate with passengers who most times are in a hurry to catch up appointments.