Globalisation and internalisation have made it exigent for people to be and remain connected across cities, countries and continents. Globalisation has broken down walls, expanded trade frontiers and made it imperative for so many people to be in different places within a short period of time. History even shows that civilisations like Egypt, Greece and China, that exploited their waterways to advance trade saw great development and played prominent roles in shaping the past. Transportation in the 21st century is therefore an important catalyst for socio-economic growth, innovation and sustainable development generally. There is no doubt that any country willing to hold a significant position in today’s world must have top notch transportation systems.
Lack of dynamic, sustainable and adequate transportation systems owing to government ineptitude, administrative inefficiency, inadequate transport infrastructure, apathy towards transport infrastructure maintenance, and lack of efficient public transportation systems continue to inflict tangible and intangible pains on Nigerians. It also robs Nigeria of development potential; lives, investment opportunities, innovation, person-hour and revenue. For instance, it is estimated that a Lagosian spends an average of 7 hours in traffic daily and for every 10 years spent living in Lagos, 3 are spent on the road. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) reports, about 1.25 million people globally meet their deaths in road traffic fatalities mostly in low/middle income countries and those who are affected most being pedestrians and cyclists.
What can be done?
A Nigeria where you seldomly lose a dear uncle or cherished sister to road traffic accidents is very possible. A Lagos where you do not have to leave for work or other pressing engagements by 4:00 AM to beat the stubborn third mainland bridge hold up is actually realisable.
The first call in solving Nigeria’s nagging transportation debacle is to take the reconstruction of our roads seriously. Important intercity roads like the Lagos/Ibadan, Benin/Ore/Lagos/, Ife/Ibadan expressways should be generously invested in and the process needs to be managed transparently. China’s new 55 kilometres long sea bridge which links Macau and Zhuai with Hong Kong has cut travel time between the three regions from 3 hours to 30 minutes. This will no doubt improve socio-economic and cultural relations between the three regions.
Building more rural roads will go a long way to reduce inequality as it rural people will have more access to social services like healthcare and education. This will also increase their chances of making valuable contributions to civic life.
However, while roads are very important in the scheme of things, more roads in Nigeria will not be enough to solve our transportation debacle. We need a transportation system that maximises all its elements; rail, road, water and air to achieve maximum efficiency. States like Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Bayelsa that have vast water bodies will achieve more development by diversifying their transportation networks to include marine transport. Building railways across important trade corridors in Nigeria will open up rural markets to more trade centres thereby lifting more people out of poverty, reducing waste and increasing gross domestic earnings.
As transport contributes 27% of global emission, formulating transportation models that can drastically reduce emission levels is of urgent importance. This can be achieved by investing more in public transport systems. Public transportation holds great potential to reduce emission because it can convey more people compared to a car with fewer passengers. In addition, a bus emits 20% less carbon monoxide than a car with a single occupant. Apart from being environmentally beneficial, public transit also has many economic advantages; every $1 invested in public transportation generates $4 in economic returns. With efficient public transportation systems, people save more money, traffic congestion reduces, and people will lead healthier lives as they spend less time behind steering wheels.
As we now live in a technology driven world, it will profit us to exploit the geniuses of artificial intelligence and internet of things to solve transportation problems. Information technology is a viable option for reducing congestion. Stephen Smith, a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University has developed smart traffic lights that use artificial intelligence to react to traffic situations. These traffic lights change to red or green depending on real time traffic situations and can accurately predict traffic situations to help people make efficient travel decisions.
Apart from all that has been mentioned, we also need to strengthen and strictly enforce safety laws. Moreover, we need to always consider pedestrians, cyclists and people living with disability in our transportation plans to reduce the rate of accidents.
Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right and it is the duty of every government to provide safe, sustainable and inclusive transport systems for its people so that they can lead more fulfilling lives.
From the Ground Up: Local views on mobility and development. Toyota Mobility Foundation, Devex. February 2018.
A new smart technology will help cities drastically reduce their traffic congestion. Adina Solomon. Paste Magazine, April 2017.
Bringing healthcare on foot to women in Haiti. Devex, Anne Lieberman & Kinsey Denney. ShortHand Social, 2015.