Friday, December 05, 2008

Phasing out molue buses

Recently, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State hinted that his administration is planning to phase out over 40,000 mass transit buses (molue) currently plying Lagos roads under the ongoing transportation programme of the state government. Given the rickety nature of some of these buses and the hazard they constitute to commuters and other road users, the plan to phase them out is welcome.

Besides giving Lagos a new image that befits its mega-city status, the envisaged plan would, to a very large extent, rid Lagos roads of buses that are no longer roadworthy and spare Lagosians the frequent road accidents caused by some of them.

However, there is the need for the Lagos State Government to carry out the exercise in such a manner that commuters are not subjected to undue suffering as experienced at the inception of the now successful Bus Rapid Transport (BRT). To ensure a hitch-free transformation from molue to modern mass transit buses, we suggest that the exercise be done in phases with a realizable deadline set by the government.

There is also the need to involve other stakeholders, especially members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) who provide the bulk of road transportation in Lagos. The members of these associations should be encouraged to form cooperatives that would enable them participate effectively in the planned new mass transit buses programme.

We believe that carrying them along will make the exercise more embracing and successful. The government must also ensure that there are enough of these new buses for the commuters. They should be made to ply all the routes currently covered by the molue buses. Doing otherwise will defeat the aim of the exercise.

Considering the fact that molue buses charge lower fares, there is every need to compel the new buses to do the same. Any deviation from this would spell doom for the programme and make the commuters long for the return of the decrepit buses.

Beyond the concentration on road transportation, it has also become necessary for the state government to think of developing other modes of transportation like the railways and waterways.
We believe that the introduction of Light Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) and Inland Waterways Transit (IWT) will considerably improve the transportation system in the metropolis. Embarking on water transportation in Lagos would not be difficult in view of the fact that Lagos is surrounded by navigable waterways. A combination of efficient rail system and well-aligned water transportation would definitely take the heat off Lagos roads.

The current traffic congestion in Lagos is largely due to over- dependence on the road mode of transportation. That could also possibly explain why the nation’s roads do not last.
Bringing sanity to Lagos roads should however, not be restricted to the phasing out of molue buses. Commercial motorcycle transportation (okada) is another transport mode that has of recent constituted the greatest danger and a nuisance to other road users in the state. The government can curb the excesses of okada riders by banning them from major highways.

Another impediment to free flow of traffic in Lagos is the presence of many uniformed men, all involved in traffic control. Specifically, the ubiquitous and often intimidating presence of officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs), Ministry of Transport (MOT), Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) and all manner of motor park touts has impeded rather than enhanced the smooth flow of traffic in the metropolis. More often, some of these men constitute a law unto themselves and extort money in the name of fines from unsuspecting members of the public for flimsy traffic offences. For sanity to prevail on Lagos roads, the government should dislodge all motor park touts from the roads and streamline the activities of the uniformed men