• Tuesday, December 05, 2023
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Bridge closures and Lagos’ commuting nightmare

The closure of key bridges in Lagos has exacerbated the city’s already dire commuting challenges, causing immense pain and frustration for residents. In early 2022, the Apongbon end of the Eko Bridge was shut down after a fire incident destroyed shops built underneath. Since then, a section of the Eko Bridge, a critical connection between the mainland and the island, has remained closed.

This closure has forced commuters to take alternative routes, such as the Ebute Ero route, which passes through a bustling market and significantly increases travel times.

Adding to the turmoil, on May 18, 2023, a sudden structural failure of a section of the Ijora Olopa Bridge further worsened the situation. The bridge collapse prompted the immediate closure of the Ijora-Olopa Bridge by the federal government due to miscreants tampering with the bridge’s reinforcement elements.

With the closure of the Ijora Olopa Bridge, coupled with the ongoing repair work on the Eko Bridge and the impassable Carter Bridge, major routes to and from Lagos Island have become virtually inaccessible. Motorists find themselves stranded, spending hours on their daily commutes and enduring immense frustration.

The severe traffic situation in Lagos is not only impoverishing residents’ time and patience but also hampering the city’s economic potential.

The insensitivity and unacceptable attitude of both the Lagos and federal governments toward fire incidents under Lagos bridges have drawn sharp criticism from motorists. Markets set up under these bridges have been the cause of multiple fire incidents, yet officials have been slow to respond and take preventive measures. This negligence has significantly contributed to the deteriorating state of transportation in Lagos, amplifying the chaos and exacerbating congestion.

The closure of the Eko Bridge, combined with the impassable Carter Bridge and ongoing repair work, has forced motorists to rely heavily on the Third Mainland Bridge, leading to severe traffic congestion. Commuters are experiencing significant delays, spending more time commuting on the Lekki Expressway and other major routes. The inefficient management of traffic by Craneberg Construction Company on the Lekki Expressway has further compounded the congestion issues.

Motorists are left frustrated as the company’s efforts to alleviate the congestion seem ineffective.

The impact of these closures and congestion on commuters cannot be overstated. Motorists are spending hours on their daily commutes, significantly impacting their productivity, well-being, and overall quality of life. Businesses and economic activities are also being hampered as the gridlock impedes the movement of goods and services.

Urgent action is required to address the failing infrastructure, improve traffic management, and invest in modern transportation solutions. The Lagos and federal governments must prioritize the reopening of the closed bridges and take proactive measures to prevent fire incidents and encroachments under these critical transportation arteries. Additionally, there is a pressing need to enhance traffic management strategies and explore innovative solutions to alleviate congestion and streamline traffic flow.

A recent experience of a commuter highlights the severity of the issue. Consulting Google Maps for a journey from Ibeju Lekki to Lagos Island, the estimated travel time through the Lekki Expressway was a staggering 5 hours. In a bid to avoid this congested route, the commuter opted for an alternative path via the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway (158-kilometer distance), which took only 2.18 hours door-to-door.

Meanwhile, other commuters who braved the Lekki Expressway found themselves trapped in endless traffic, taking a staggering 5.5 hours to cover a mere 68-kilometer distance. Lagos traffic defies logic, leaving residents questioning their sanity.

Research findings published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2023 further support the detrimental effects of long commuting times on quality of life. The study, conducted in China, revealed that longer commute times correlate with lower satisfaction with work and life, leading to health damage and physical inactivity. However, the construction of better public transportation infrastructure, particularly subways, has been proven to decrease commuting time.

The implementation of comprehensive transportation plans, including the development of alternative routes and the expansion of public transportation options, can contribute to relieving the burden on Lagos’ road networks. Furthermore, leveraging technology and adopting modern traffic management systems can significantly improve efficiency and enhance the overall commuting experience.

The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), responsible for enforcing traffic laws in Lagos, has come under fire for structuring their efficiency on “revenue collection”. Their traffic officers spend time harassing and extorting people, all in a bid to slam arbitrary charges on motorists to make more money from fines.

LASTMA need to realise that revenue collection is not a traffic management strategy. They need to wake up and realise that they are saddled with one of the biggest tasks of managing traffic in one of the world’s largest conurbations.

Their operational inefficiency has resulted in poor traffic diffusion strategies, and lax enforcement, allowing traffic violations to go unchecked and worsening congestion on the city’s roads. Contrasting with more sophisticated traffic management systems in other countries, Lagos lags behind in utilizing modern tools and technologies to streamline traffic flow.

The issue of traffic robberies adds another layer of danger to Lagos’ commuting nightmare. Criminals often target motorists trapped in traffic, resorting to violence and theft. Such incidents not only cause financial losses but also pose significant risks to the safety and well-being of commuters.

Another study conducted by the University of the West of England reveals that every additional minute of commuting time decreases job satisfaction, reduces leisure time satisfaction, increases strain, and worsens mental health. It highlighted the need to address the detrimental effects of commuting on well-being and suggests that longer commutes may be accepted as a social norm if considered unavoidable.

The dire consequences of traffic congestion in Lagos extend beyond mere inconvenience, with significant economic implications. As studies show, each additional minute spent in commuting reduces job satisfaction, further burdening the already frustrated workforce.

As the average commuting time in Lagos continues to escalate, businesses suffer as employees struggle to reach their workplaces in a timely manner, resulting in productivity losses and hindered economic growth. Furthermore, the strain imposed by long commutes negatively affects mental health, contributing to decreased overall well-being and inhibiting individuals from fully engaging in economic activities.

Read also: Effects of traffic hold-up on health

The severe traffic situation in Lagos is not only impoverishing residents’ time and patience but also hampering the city’s economic potential.

Despite promises made by Lagos State to reopen the Eko Bridge on May 31st, the situation remains unchanged. As of June 9, 2023, the bridge remains closed from Costain, leaving two major exits from Lagos Island completely blocked.

This unfortunate reality forces commuters to undertake longer journeys through the already overburdened Third Mainland Bridge. With fuel prices soaring due to subsidy removal, the exacerbated traffic situation in Lagos further burdens residents, burning more of their time, money, and patience.

The situation in Lagos demands swift and decisive action. It is crucial for the government, relevant stakeholders, and the community to collaborate and prioritize investments in transportation infrastructure, traffic management, and public transportation. Only through a collective effort can Lagos overcome its commuting nightmare and unlock its true potential as a vibrant, thriving city that offers its residents a better quality of life.

Uzo writes from Lagos