What is being billed as the first of its kind in Africa – the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – took off in Nigeria’s economic capital city of Lagos Monday after an elaborate launch ceremony, in a bold effort to ease the public transportation problem faced by commuters in the huge city.
The BRT scheme is the initiative of the Lagos state government, as part of its efforts to upgrade the growing city of over 10 million people from its largely decrepit state to a truly mega city that will be at par with other major cities around the world.
Under the scheme, the 100 mega buses specially procured for the project will ply reserved, marked lanes along a special corridor designed for it on designated routes from the city’s mainland to the Island .
The buses, which have 1 billion naira comprehensive insurance cover provided by an indigenous underwriting firm, will only stop at specially-built terminals, which are tastefully designed to provide comfort and security for waiting passengers (US$1=117 naira).
The blue and red-coloured luxury buses can accommodate about 70 passengers each, and are expected to provide commuters an alternative to the often rickety buses that currently pliy Lagos roads.
“It means that passengers now have a better choice. From what I saw during the test running, commuters will have a jolly ride in comfort. It will definitely not be like the one I just entered which left my clothes torn,” a commuter, Bolaji Adams, told PANA here Monday.
A key advantage of the BRT scheme will be speed.
A journey from the far reaches of the city to the Island that usually takes hours in grinding traffic will now take far less time, saving thousands of man hours.
Despite its introduction, the ubiquitous, yellow mini buses will continue to ferry passengers, at least in the short run.
The Special Adviser on Transportation to the Lagos state Governor, Kayode Opeifa, explained that the new BRT buses would complement the existing mini buses, adding:
“The BRT scheme is the outcome of the state government resolve to restore sanity to a vital sector of the economy, the transport system.”
Ahead of the launch, the state government had embarked on a massive enlightenment campaign to sensitise the public to the details of the BRT operation.
It has also upgraded the roads on the special corridor designed for the buses, in addition to ensuring that the route was well lit at night.
And for the past week, it had embarked on a test run of the scheme.
Some residents have however expressed fears that the scheme could suffer from various problems, including breakdown of the buses, non-compliance with the rules guiding the scheme by the stubborn commuter drivers and the build-up of traffic on the other lanes designated for other vehicles apart from the BRT buses.
But Opeifa said tough penalties of fine or imprisonement awaited any motorists that flout the directive on the BRT scheme. Panapress.