Carpooling: Solution to Road Transport System and Environmental Pollution in Nigeria Cities (Lagos State)

Introduction

… ‘The world’s cities have a transport problem in the making as a result and must begin to think of a way out … Rachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development of the World Bank.

Before I started writing this piece, I tried searching out for materials relating to Problems of Nigeria Road Transport System; of course, Google was loaded with various manner of articles, research works, comments,  transport agencies reports, government and its officials reports, and what-a-view of all sorts highlighting different reasons ranging from poor road infrastructure and network to shortage of transport workers and officers to government policies inconsistency to lack of well trained transport officers to improper road users attitude to lack to finance for roads to bad roads and the list could go on and on but to my amazement and far from my amusement, I didn’t find a material covering a reason like ‘Excessive Vehicle  on Nigeria Road’ as a reason  contributing to the problem of Nigeria Road Transport System (NRTS). Obviously, it is not yet obvious to most that this is a major cause or reason.

The 1997 estimate by the World Bank recorded that the Number of motor vehicles per 1,000 people is 12 and about January of this year, the World Bank expressed fears that the number of vehicles on roads around the world would double to about 1.7 billion by 2035 inferring that we have about 850,000,000 presently   on roads.  More contextual related is the disclosure of by the Enugu State sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Luka U. Ikpi, around November, 2007 that not less than 7,000,000 registered vehicles are operating on its roads. He also said that road transport system accounted for over 75 per cent of mobility needs in Nigeria. The FRSC data on its website also claimed that as at 2008, available records indicated that Nigeria has about 14 (Fourteen) million registered vehicles.

Conspicuous enough, the foregoing statistics should by now send a clear message of danger to everyone, generally (governmentally) and individually,   in the cities and beyond if we don’t fasten our belt as to abate this coming socio-economic and environmental catastrophe.

The options of Nigeria and Nigerian is quite narrow to basically road as it is the most and ultimately resorted means of transportation as evident in the even distant-dated (2007) statistics that ‘Road Transport System accounted for over 75 per cent of mobility needs in the country’ as quoted by Ikpi. More so, more reasons that leaves us with little or no option other than road is coupled with the near collapse (although presently trying to be revived in Lagos state) of the rail system and the high cost of air travels which has in-turn  put quite a lot of pressure on the nation’s road transport industry. Thus all of these have joined hands together to become a clog in the wheels of road transportation in the nation and particularly it cities

Nigeria is undergoing a rapidly growing urbanisation and Lagos State is the spring –board of this phenomenon with which she has got no close-tie per se. By implication, this means not only that more people than ever before will be living, moving  and working in cities, but also that more people and more goods will be making more and longer trips in urban and urbanising areas.

However, Nigeria and particularly it cities is not the only one caught in this web of uncontrolled influx of vehicle in the country (cities) and excessive number of vehicle on her road. India for example, shares the same bracket with us on this issue and they are gradually crawling their way out of this web just as Lagos State is trying to, especially with the advent of the Bus Rapid System (BRT). Delhi, the capital of India exhibits to a large extent, the features inherent in Nigeria (Lagos State) transport system particularly before the advent of BRT system. One of such quite identical features Delhi has with Lagos State among others is that the most widely used mode of conveyance of public transport in the India city is “buses”. These buses, like in Lagos State, form a backbone of the transportation system in Delhi  and in spite of this, it does not receive any preferential treatment in terms of traffic management, dedicated lanes, and better upkeep/ maintenance of vehicles resulting that common man who can afford even slightly higher is shifting from buses to their own vehicles regardless of whether it is a two-wheelers or four wheelers or even bicycles because of which the number of vehicles on the roads are increasing which is leading to further lowering of speed, congestion, increase in pollution level e.t.c.

In the dark of the transportation issue in Delhi, researchers have been able to come up with a lamp to see a path out of the seemingly intractable problem their city is entangled in.  In 2007, a two-man research in an Advance Online Publication wrote quite comprehensively on ‘Carpooling: A Step To Reduce Congestion’ and the solutions it stands to give using Delhi as their case study in an attempt to seek a way out of this stumbling block in their city’s transport system and economy at large.

Similarly, another duo Portuguese scholars saw carpooling as a help to their road transport system even suggesting different ways it can best work out in their research report, ‘Carpooling and carpool clubs: Clarifying concepts and assessing value enhancement possibilities through a Stated Preference web survey in Lisbon, Portugal,’ in 2010.

In the same light, a team of professional scholars of the Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran recognised carpooling from an angle of fuel saving in urban transportation using Tehran as their case study in their 2010 published research journal. The list of these researchers could go on and on especially for countries who have before now seen or discovered a need to save and sustain their road transportation system by imbibing the culture of carpooling from decades ago. US, Canada, UK and so on are not left out of this benefiting practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big question now is ‘what is car pooling’?

 I believe the history behind carpooling would go a long way in understanding the concept of carpooling than a more or less a mere single or double line definition expected to be the answer to this question.

For America, Carpooling hit its hey-day in the 1970s, when the oil crises of 1973 and 1979 first spurred many North American drivers to find cheaper ways to commute. Thus, the essence of carpooling is first driven by attempt to reduce fuel consumption cost of individual vehicles especially when there is a rise in fuel prices albeit sadly for Nigerians, we have as a normalcy, high fuel prices which stability is quite guaranteed.

Succinctly, one can simply define carpooling as the sharing of rides in a private vehicle among two or more individuals. However, the most interesting thing about this practice is that it can come in different arrangements as sometimes, car-poolers share driving, and other responsibilities. In some other arrangements, one person does all the driving and is reimbursed for mileage by his or her riders or the carpool driver may pick up passengers from their home or the passenger may find a way to get to the driver’s home at a specified time or they may meet at a particular location- the arrangement is diverse. Thus carpooling can also be seen as a means of creating and infusing flexibility into the mechanism of our transportation system and much more as it pertains to commuters as flexibility has always engendered a high level effectiveness and efficiency because it often follows the path of reduced cost and increasing options or avenues for things getting done.

Taking a step deeper, defining carpooling quite cogently can be seen as an effort by which drivers of motor cars agree to take turn to share rides from places of residence to places of employment. Hence, one essence of carpooling is geared towards a most cost-cutting means of workers movements from their home to office daily. It is seen as the easiest and most common ridesharing arrangement.

 

 

 

Benefits of Carpooling

Obviously, practically and statically, the benefits of carpooling are immensurable but I shall choose to mention a few; there relevance to this article, I deem quite fit.

Security: if one is to weigh-in the sense of  safety and security of commuting in public transport (with strangers daily) as with some form of carpooling arrangement (like most arrangements are tailored to commuting with the specific people daily), the later is not only perceived safer by most people but it is in actual fact safer.

Socialising: Even in the dominating times of the IT and urbanisation in our cities, it definitely hasn’t made man to lost his social nature as cities are even factually seen as catalytic areas for socialising. However it may not be in the same way, place and time as Professor Chinua Achebe meant in his quotewhen we gather together on the moonlit village ground. It is not because of the moon, everyone can see it from his own compound. It is because it is good for kinsmen to do so.’ An effectively operational carpooling system actually creates a basis of acquaintance capable of growth into fellowship and love for one another.

Economy growth: The National Bureau of Statistic (Nigeria) in its 2012 records held that road transportation accounted for more than 90 per cent of the sub-sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It is also important for one to note that the elements of road transportation is not limited to the one-way reaction between vehicles and road alone but there’s a chain reaction encompassing some other derivatives element like the fuel consumption, pollution, health,  manufacturing and production of fuel among others. President Obasanjo’s, a three-term president of Nigeria, in his inaugural address of May 1999 said: Transport is the lifeline of the economy and social interactions. An inefficient transport system implies stagnation in all sectors.…’’

Also, in 2005, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) recorded domestic consumption of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) as 9,572,014,330 billion litres, while 2,361,480,530,000 billion litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) was equally recorded. Thus, if an effective carpooling system was to be operational, we can attain a half slash of the consumed quantity of fuel which in-turns cuts the total cost of buying the fuel which in-turns cause a lower demand of the production of fuel for domestic consumption and the chain reaction goes on and on like a digestion process till it nourishes our nation’s socio-economic and environmental body as less money is spent on production and purchase of fuel leading to marginal funds which can be directed or redirected to other needful areas of our economy. The produced ‘un-demanded’ or unconsumed fuel as a result of carpooling can as well be exported to strengthen our economy on an international and global altitude. Researchers in capital cities like Tehran and Delhi have drawn out conclusions stating the gross benefit of low fuel consumption obtainable through carpooling which I believe anyone, ordinarily, should be able understand how that works out.

A paper presented at the Transportation Research Board’s 89th Annual Meeting in January 2010, ‘Estimating the Energy Consumption Impact of Casual Carpooling,’ estimated that San Francisco saves almost 1 million gallons of gasoline. Canada as well often emphasise the importance of carpooling in light of a fuel cost-cutting strategy. Thus, these savings translates into a surplus in the nation’s budget and if effectively managed can be injected back into its economy for the betterment of everyone, socio-economically, environmentally and beyond.

Cost savings: It is quite conspicuous from even the evolution of carpooling that it’s a concept focally driven by cost saving. That is instead of let’s say  four people- living in the vicinity and driving to the same CBD – daily going in their different cars; we can have just a car conveying those same 4  people to and fro of their destination points(home and office). Hence we have just the litres of fuel of a single car being consumed as opposed to the times 4 (X 4) litres all of them should have. Beyond this, we have less car park cost being incurred especially in the CBD. The cost saving chain could go on.

A Canadian government transportation website  explained that Carpooling allows one to share the cost of gas and parking, cutting your expenses by nearly 50% or more; that is, the more occupants in your carpool the more you save.  Carpooling is also socially economical because not only will you be saving, but you will also help reduce the costs every individual pay towards the construction of new roads, road maintenance and air pollution related health costs. 

Another Canadian transportation website (UTSB) gave an explanatory analysis quoting statistical figures as it pertain to the construction of Car parks and its yearly maintenance. It says ‘…constructing one parking space can cost between $1,500 and $22,000, depending on the type of parking facility. Average annual operating costs can run from $500 to $800 per space. Enbridge, a member of Smart Commute, implemented a vanpool program for its employees using Carpool Zone, saving them $19,000 annually in parking lease costs.’

Environmental Sustenance: The body of the environment which for decades have been battered and wounded with strokes of canes as a result of human activities however due to the ignorance and negligence of most people has since a few years ago been of major concern. Now, the call for pity is even under compulsion for if we don’t only pity her (our environment), repair or treat  her and every now-and-then make conscious effort to restore her state, she shall come back for humanity quite ‘pestilentially’ just like the second of second Christ the bible describes.  However, a roar of glory for the ones who got this imminent cue about the environmental state and acted quite promptly. We have had for a couple of years now, global voices daily calling out and cajoling everyone to save and revive our environment. Quite a lot of Government Organisations, Non-Government Organization, financial institutions, groups, Individuals and many more have come out to facilitate, mobilise and support this call. To my best of knowledge and research, the UN and World Bank have taken lead roles as the giant strides they take have been quite impactful worldwide. It is dangerous for one to fold his arms and stare this movement without doing anything because the fast growing children traceable to mother global-warming are getting older and multiplying by the day for form her army(mother global); we all are to  work together and start striking before her army size enlarges beyond our control.

On another hand, it is however scientifically held that the major contributor to this environmental menace is noted to be the emission of carbon-monoxide (Green-House-Gas [GHG]) – a bye product of almost of all emitting vehicles on earth. Thus the call for a check on vehicular emission is heavenly required. However, this requirement hasn’t been transformed to an effective-demand as it should be especially in the cities of developing countries (Lagos State) largely because of their realisation of the indispensability of vehicles in their day to day endeavours.

Health: In a statement posted on World Bank website on Thursday 31st, January 2013 and signed by Rachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development of the World Bank; she said ‘air pollution cuts into cities’ productivity and is blamed for the deaths of 800,000 people every year’. It is a known and practicable fact that having fewer cars on the road translates to reduced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and improved air quality. Statistically speaking, results from a 2003 review of the city of Calgary’s carpooling initiative, for example, found that the 143 carpools that were formed that year reduced annual GHG emissions by 854 tonnes.

Stress and Productivity:  a branch-off health studies proposes that anecdotal evidence suggests that carpooling can promote a feeling of association by having companions in the car. One 1993 U.S. study found that commuting stress was higher with the distance and duration of the commute. Full-time car-poolers, on the other hand, were less bothered by traffic congestion and more satisfied with their commutes than solo drivers.

More so, driving stress can be easily shared and compensated for rightly. In the same light, several studies have found that employers, who offer sustainable transportation programs, including ride-matching services, staff-busing and so on, report that their employees tend to be less stressed, which can, in turn, lead to greater productivity and better morale.

Other benefits includes, less congestion of roads, convenience, flexibility, other inherent benefits of socialising, less wear and tear on roads and so on thus, goes to justify the fact that the benefits of carpooling is immeasurable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the Urgent Call for Carpooling? (Nigeria – Lagos State)

 “Take a drive in Lagos and you’ll see the challenges cities face–and what they can do about them”, Rachel Kyte said, adding that the state (Lagos State) which is highly populated has locked-in traffic patterns and congested roads that can get thick with pollution.

In corollary, urgent call for carpooling is not only tied to a few benefits like: reliever of stress level for commuters, socio-economic advantages, a way to clear the throat of our cities from choking and frequent hiccups caused by poor road transport among other advantages but much more the global effect of vehicular emissions in light of the sustenance of humanity and the environment as a whole especially in this delicate times of environmental hazard and revenge. The World Bank statistics holds that 14 per cent of climate changing greenhouse gases come from the transport sector, and 90 per cent of urban air pollution is generated by motor vehicles.

Rachel Kyte further noted that the world’s cities have a transport problem in the making as a result and must begin to think of a way out. Thus the call for an urgent saving scheme and strategy has already been made quite explanatorily and the onus is on us now to get our pen and drawing boards out to map out a course to save and deliver humanity, our economy and the environment from this coming doom set to befall on us.  Carpooling, which can be seen as a route of escape as it considered an interesting Transport Demand Management (TDM) tool that has produces some diminishment in the number of cars on the road- a step closer to the reducer of Greenhouse Gas (GHG).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Efforts of Government (Lagos State)

Accolades to the government of Lagos state who is dedicatedly seeing to it that the something is done to improve the Transportation system in her cities.  The present government administration of the state has shown a high note commitment to the numbers of roads and drainages construction across it length and breath. The government of the state said on June 25, 2013 that another 70 new roads had been approved and awarded for construction and rehabilitation in the state. According to him: “We set ourselves the target in the second term to complete about 450 roads. Last year, we awarded about 160 roads. This year, we have awarded about 70 roads. This signifies our intention this year that we are more concerned about road construction’. Half of the roads they set out to achieve have been completed, a pin-pointer to its transparent commitment for a better transportation system.

A bigger giant stride step taken towards its transportation system was taken in 2002 when she birthed Bus Rapid Transit as one messiah of striving transport system in her cities. The scheme, first in sub-Saharan Africa, was however supported by the World Bank. Some worthy of praise achievement by BRT scheme introduction is that commuters in Lagos today have reduced their transit time by 40 per cent, and fares have dropped 30 per cent on average, despite rising fuel costs according to the top bank executive. She went to say that ‘….Much more must be done …’   which the primary essence of this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pointers of Carpooling Birthing and Survival (Nigeria, Lagos State)

I pick my ground- breaking pointer from the father of Urban City Structure, Earnest Burgess as he explained a typical city using the concentric zone theory. He gave an account of how people settle in the concentric layers and the activities which are heavily evident and inherent in them. Summarising his model; the innermost layer which is known as the Central Business District (CBD) or loop; that is the core of where city / commercial activities is done. The transition, industrial, middle class and high-class residential zone follow outwardly respectively.

What should be taken home from the concentric zone theory is the ‘Grouping or stratifying’ inherent there-in. That is, business activities are done largely in a circle (CBD), industry is concentrated in another circle. The middle class people, high-class all settle in different concentric layer. Thus, as evident in Lagos cities, most people work in the CBDs (Island and Ikeja) and live the outer concentric layers. That is to say there is a relative general connection of residence and workplace location by most individuals correlating with the essence of carpooling (house-to-office movement) as earlier discussed.

More practical, is the fact that most people share a common testimony of seeing the same set of people at the bus stop and in the buses on frequent basis as they go to their workplace and homes- in short, we have the right recipe for an efficient and effective car pooling system to be well cooked, baked and delivered to nourish our road transportation system and socio-economic and environment at large.

More so, a lot of employed middle class workers who own a car or bike stop by some bus-stops to carry people at a fee as they leave for work early in the morning and as they go back to their various houses at night. I have, in person, met and seen a few people who participate in this act. It is however noted that these people prefer to do this in the cover of the dark (late nights and early mornings) or behind the people they know (colleagues, neighbours or friends especially) because they find it quite shameful for them to be caught or known with such. Thus, they see themselves as perpetuators and not as participants of an innovative scheme which has got so many benefits they themselves are benefiting a portion from albeit shamefully.

 

Furthermore, it is generally held in almost all countries of the world that majority of trips are single occupant vehicle trips (SOV) resulting in more cars for the same number of persons. A research study as far back in 1990 recorded that approximately 90% of the work trips and 58% of the other trips in United States were done in SOV. Another research study held by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 1997 showed that the average occupancy rate of the automobiles in commuting trips for the 15 countries of the European Union was, at that time, in the interval between 1.1 and 1.2 persons per vehicle. Visualising the foregoing statistics in present times is more than enough signal or beckon to reorder our steps else we swiftly and increasingly creating a socio-economic ditch ahead of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attaining an Effective Carpooling System

It is important for us all to understand that carpooling is an all-participant thing. It is a call for involvement of all individuals, companies, government organisations, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), Faith-Based Organisation (FBOs), churches and mosques, CDAs and communities, social clubs and others.

The basic reasons why carpooling is an all-participant practice before to have it effective and efficient is the general ‘grouping’ or socialising nature of humans in diverse umbrellas like companies, government agencies, non-government Organisations, Faith-Based Organisation, churches and mosques, CDAs and communities, social clubs and so on and more importantly because of an effective communication and interaction medium is borne by this umbrellas.

The following are a few inclusive reasons why they effectiveness of carpooling is hinged on the participation of these groups:

  • when there is a need for statistical data and information geared towards effective carpooling is required, it can be easily and authentically gathered as from time to time it is in the nature of data and information to change periodically;
  • Likewise, when there is a need for orientation of these people, it effectively done;
  • There is a familiarity basis or common ground for these people to work together or socialise;
  • There is an already existing management like the church welfare units, CDA, Local Government Council to take off a close-contact role of leadership which is required who can effectively manage the system;
  • Provisions for the people can be assisted in commensurate with the right demand;
  • Information can also be disseminated effectively.

Also we can stretch our view of ‘grouping’ to the present day social Networking system driven by IT and more specifically via the Facebook, Blackberry and other social website and chatting means / devices.  A website designed towards the operation of this system can also be developed e.g. PickUpPal. All of these are already a step closer to the effective and efficient practising of carpooling system even inclusive is the GIS.

 

Strategies of Working out Carpooling in Lagos State

Explanations in the preceding subheading, ‘Attaining an Effective Carpooling System’  lies part of the basis of the methodologies to be adopted if one is to have a successful carpooling system in Lagos state.

Drawing from the staff-busing system culture often practised by large organisations (like oil companies) and government bodies most especially because they can afford it for their employees, one can practically picture a carpooling system from that angle. Just as theses organisations/ government organisations provide vehicles to convey their staffs to and fro from particular bus-stops or houses to office during the working week days, a car pooling system operates very much similar. In fact, car pooling system is and should be seen as an alternative means to staff-busing. For organisations who can’t afford the staff-busing system or who don’t have enough buses, they should opt for a carpooling system as it closest option and have a complete share of the full basket of fruits carpooling has got to offer. The school bus, church buses can all be seen as some sort of car pooling system which all depicts that it is dying need and desire for most people and the question as to how whether it will survive and be effective is has already got an answer.

Also, mass units like staff quarters either own by individual or a group or the government can assist in effective implementation of this development because they already have an existing basis as to people living in the same place and working in the same place. Plus there is already a common ground for socialising.

Quite importantly, a catalytic incentive that can be geared towards a successful carpooling system is that already being used by developed countries, the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes. HOV lanes which can be understood as restricted-use freeway lanes reserved for vehicles with more than a predetermined number of occupants were built to persuade drivers to carpool by providing a free flowing lane with shorter travel times and greater travel time reliability.

The BRT lane (the closest road feature to HOV lane in the Nigeria context) can be made to accommodate car-poolers by policies and infrastructures. Thus, travel time, stress and fuel can be reduced as an effectively successful carpooling system is rapidly established. It is also note worthy to mention the unimaginable long queue at the BRT terminals which can be sometimes compared with the length of the Great Wall of China. This leaves millions of commuters are stranded and overstressed-out at the end of each day.

In addition is the awful state of BRT buses largely due to overcrowding and also the poor maintenance, although a culture general known with the Nigerian government. The advent of carpooling is powerful enough to reduce these long queues, stress, overcrowding of these buses, reduce maintenance cost so that they last longer.

For instance, the carpooling system that operates only in three states in the US which are San Francisco CA, Washington DC, and Houston TX, and called ‘slug lines’ in the latter two locations. The mode of operation of ‘slug lines’ is quite modified from a traditionally carpooling system. In Washington, D.C., for example, a driver who needs additional passengers to meet the required HOV lane minimum pulls up to a known “slug line.” The driver either displays a sign with the destination or simply lowers the passenger window, to call out the destination, such as “Pentagon,” The “slugs,” or passengers, first in line for that particular destination hop into the car, confirm the destination, and off they go. This arrangement is quite viable in the Nigeria context if it can be infused into the BRT system and bus terminals.

Over all, the easiest and most practicable kick off point for a pooling system in Lagos state particularly are the existing, Bus Stops, Bus Terminals like that  of the BRT buses and also Estates or community gate and so on where people dwell. Further welcoming is the fact that from my orally gotten data, most Nigerians are more than ready for a carpooling system because about 80 percent of the middle working nods their head to the arrangement especially because of the high cost of living in the cities. However some also share the testimony of not willing to patronise public mass transit like commercial buses and find the carpooling approach more welcoming and dignifying.

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Just as the general writ goes, ‘every problem creates an opportunity.’ Perhaps it is best to conclude this write up with a few thoughtful and encouraging words of the World Bank top executive. It’s also an opportunity, one that cities, particularly the fast-growing urban centres in developing countries, must take now’. She went on to say that; ‘Those that build efficient, inclusive urban transport systems can connect their people with jobs, health care, and education. They can reduce congestion, and they can limit carbon emissions that are contributing to climate change’.

It is advisable for all of us to see the introduction of an effective carpooling system as not only a step closer to the solution of our fainting transport system but also as an opportunity for job creation, better education and orientation, healthier environment among other embedded benefits and the time to start is now just as Rachel Kyte as aptly called as a true leader.

Here is an admonishment to the ears of our government (especially) and other participants should as well be actively drawn to this and support it. It is a call-out for Investors, government, organisations, NGOs, FBOs, churches and mosque, individuals and groups and every person to support this financially, physically, socially, educationally, religiously, physically, materially and so on for the betterment of our socio-economic state, the environment and beyond.

Thank you

 

 

 

 

 

 

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