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How apps help motorists to navigate Lagos’ chaotic traffic

 
 
Nigerian News Update » Nigerian Newspapers
Punch Newspaper
 
Foreign and indigenous firms are using technology to solve one of the biggest problems confronting city dwellers in Nigeria, gridlock on the roads, creating better job opportunities for many people and enabling users to cut through heavy traffic with ease and in comfort, OZIOMA UBABUKOH writes

When Moses Iheanacho left the university five years ago, he had high hopes of securing a job with one of the oil servicing companies, but he had to settle for teaching in a private nursery and primary school when his efforts to get the dream job failed to translate into reality.

Though he was grateful that he got something doing, he was never satisfied with the job as he considered it way below what he ought to be doing. He saw the teaching job as a stopgap, and was desperately looking for better opportunities.

In October 2016, his luck shone through as he was invited for an aptitude test by an oil servicing company in its Victoria Island, Lagos office. He prepared well for the test and was already dreaming of moving out of poverty.

On the appointed day, he left his Sango place of residence in Ogun State by 5am to sit for the test at 10am. The journey was slowly and steadily progressing until the bus conveying him and others to Obalende got to a U-Turn and got  stuck in the gridlock caused by the construction of a bridge at Abule-Egba. What started like a joke soon assumed a frightening dimension as the bus could not get to Iyana Ipaja until around 8am.

Iheanacho was petrified! He was sweating profusely, with his fellow passengers, driver and conductor paying little or no attention to his predicament. Another shocker awaited him at the Iyana Owo end of the Third Mainland Bridge, where an accident involving about six vehicles occurred some 20 minutes before the bus he boarded arrived there. For the next 40 minutes, officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos State Ambulance Service and the police battled to rescue the victims and clear the road.

Eventually, he arrived the company at 10.50am only to see other candidates invited for the test coming out, some beaming with smile for successfully completing the test, while waiting for the result. The security men at the gate did not even allow Iheanacho to enter the premises, mockingly telling him about the high level of his lack of seriousness. He was inconsolable and even considered committing suicide, but for the help of his pastor friend, who became his counsellor.

At least three of every 10 years spent in Lagos is lost to traffic, a survey by a Lagos-based transport firm, Planet Projects, has shown.

It, therefore, means that residents of Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, spend an average of seven hours, 20 minutes in traffic every day.

The Managing Director, Planet Projects, Mr. Biodun Otunola, says 70 per cent of the city’s traffic bottlenecks can be located on road junctions.

He says this is taking a heavy toll on the health of the road users, reducing their lifespan and adversely affecting their productivity as well as the economy of the nation.

“Driving to work daily and being stuck in traffic for hours causes fatigue, leads to low productivity and burning of fuel. Unless we solve the traffic problem, and by extension the transport problem, we’ll continue to kill ourselves,” he says.

Otunola, whose firm is organising a three-day conference on the challenges and opportunities in the Nigerian railway from today (Monday), says there is an urgent need to reduce car ridership in Lagos by 20 per cent.

For instance, he says the Lekki-Epe Expressway, which is initially designed to move an average of 7,000 vehicles, now has to contend with about 70,000 automobiles.

He also stresses that there is no need to build new roads in Lagos, adding that what is required is to work on the existing ones, remove some junctions and focus on effective public transportation.

According to him, economic development and improvement in standard of living may not be achieved unless necessary steps are taken to tackle the challenges in the transportation sector.

To solve the problem of traffic gridlock for which Lagos has become annoyingly notorious, experts are using technology to solve some of the problems.

While sitting in the Lagos traffic for hours may seem like a necessary evil, several app developers have found ways to make navigating the city’s roads less agonising.

Making your way through the streets of Lagos has never been easier thanks to these navigational apps, which provide detailed street maps, transit information, and provide interesting data on commuting.

If you are stuck in a gridlock or looking for easy ways to get past a roadblock, these apps have got you covered. The apps that will help you get to your destination faster are:

Gidi Traffic

Gidi Traffic is a community-based traffic and navigation app that lets you share real-time transit information in Lagos. It alerts you before you approach police checkpoints, accident scenes, road hazards or traffic jams, and lets you scout the city for jobs, stores, people and places. You can also make inquiries about anything and get replies instantly, as well as share traffic reports with your friends on numerous social networks. It is available on Android and Windows Phone

JonnyWaka 316

JonnyWaka 316 is a mobile app designed to improve road user experience. JonnyWaka 316 gives users the opportunity to help the administrators upload traffic incidents like accidents, floods and armed robberies for everyone to see. The incidents are then marked on the road, route and map showing the precise locations. The app assists authorities like the FRSC and the Nigerian police to monitor and report traffic situations, track road crimes and armed robberies. It is available on Android.

The Traffic Lite App

The Traffic Lite App is aimed at easing traffic on Lagos roads. The app is a community-based traffic application, which provides real-time traffic updates, including accidents, speed traps and hazards on the roads to subscribers on the platform, which is intended to help them save time, money as well as aid in improving daily commuting for all.

Its traffic report shows the actual cumulative speed on the route, actual number of road commuters present on the route, estimated travel time, route distance and bottlenecks along the route. Users can also save custom routes and share with friends as well as send automatic traffic route reports or alerts. It is available on Android and Blackberry App world.

Tsaboin TrafficTalk app

The Tsaboin Traffic Talk app provides a forum for commuters in Lagos to share real-time traffic experiences, road conditions and other related issues like accidents and bad roads through text updates and photos. The app recently added live traffic cameras; however, these services are limited to Apapa, Ikeja, Ikorodu, Lagos Island, Surulere and Yaba areas. The app is available from tsaboin.com.

The Chief Executive Officer, Tsaboin Traffic Talk, Mr. Dele Odufuye, says, “With Tsaboin TrafficTalk, you can beat traffic by checking up recent and accurate traffic updates, and view live traffic cameras on the road.

“With information comes direction. The more you know, the better it is for you to make smarter choices. Armed with this knowledge, Tsaboin provides traffic reports to help road users avoid traffic by text and by video. We have camera views around the city of Lagos that provide up to the minute view of the road to help you make up your mind on which route to take, so you do not waste time and fuel.

“It is also centred on sharing information where users can report about road and traffic conditions. With this depth of knowledge, television and radio stations can take advantage of this to provide road and traffic reports to their audience, which some television and radio stations have been doing, like Television Continental and RoyalRoot TV.”

Traffikator

Traffikator delivers instant traffic information using a combination of crowd-sourced traffic updates and geolocation. The app allows for easier movement in Lagos via location data (Global Positioning System). Users can connect and chat with others on the Traffikator network directly on their mobile phones. Additionally, users can also tweet to other users who utilise the app. It is available from traffikator.com.

TrafficButter

TrafficButter eases the Lagos transit stress by providing real-time updates through a mobile app. The app captures traffic situations and presents them to its users in a concise manner. It is available for download on Android.

Road Peer

Road Peer is a location-based mobile app, which can be used to view and report traffic conditions on major roads in Lagos. The app gathers user-reports and uses an intelligent programming algorithm to analyse and publish traffic conditions to all its users in real-time. It also has a social networking feature, where those in gridlocked situations can share information. It is available on Blackberry (BB OS 6 & 7 compatible).

Traffic Chief Nigeria

A mobile app that features traffic tweets shared by drivers all over the country, including Lagos, in real-time. Traffic Chief Nigeria is considered an online community-based traffic visualisation and notification app. The app gathers relevant traffic data and displays it in an interactive and easy to digest format.

Soole

Sole is a new transport scheme for ride-sharing, shuttle and charter services introduced by technology firm, IWorld Transit Services Limited, in conjunction with taxi drivers and a number of other public transport operators and regulators in Lagos. It enables commuters to have access to any class of cabs at their door steps.

The Group Managing Director, IWorld Transit Services Limited, Mr. Chalres Ojo, says the app will operate under the category of taxi/cab, ride-sharing, shuttle and charter services.

According to him, the ride sharing service, which is also known as car-pooling, is unique and will allow professionals in the Lagos metropolis to commute on week days from home to work, and vice versa, in a secure environment. It will provide them the opportunity to network and form an exclusive community.

Ojo says, “The app is linked to over 400 trained taxi drivers in Lagos State. It is adapted to our cab operations. It is not metered, hence no surprises. It is based on negotiation, which makes it favourable for both the driver and passenger.

“The services are not charged per hour and all payments for now are made electronically through the app. This alone authenticates the services and the status of the driver. The over 400 cabs under the taxi/cab services can be located in any part of Lagos State.”

He adds, “The app shows you the driver’s details. All registered drivers are screened and identified with their various parks. We are starting operations with Lagos, but in due course, the services will be extended to Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Abuja and other major cities in Nigeria.

“The cab service covers every Nigerian. It is offered in standard, deluxe and executive categories. Irrespective of class, the firm observed at any point in time, over 10 million Lagosians move for various reasons in the state.”

Lagos Traffic Radio (96.1 FM)

One of the enduring legacies of Babatunde Fashola as governor of Lagos State is the establishment of the radio station exclusively to guide road users on traffic situation on roads within the state and the neighbouring Ogun and Oyo states. It works with the police, LASTMA, Ogun Traffic Enforcement Agency, FRSC and other similar agencies, and also provides information about vehicle maintenance and products and services to ease commuting.

Ride-sharing apps

In January 2016, Sunday Sule suddenly stopped his kabukabu business – a parlance for private taxi business in Lagos with mostly old, rickety and unpainted cars. He wished there were available funds to purchase a car not beyond 10 years from the date of production, as this would enable him to enrol to become an Uber driver. Uber is a ride-sharing app that connects taxi drivers with customers who want a lift.

In that time, the Edo State-born driver said about seven out of 10 prospective passengers who had the means to pay for a taxi service in Lagos preferred a safer, comfortable and more affordable transportation system like the one Uber provides.

“What this implies is that my friends, who still drive kabukabu or private taxis, approximately make three to four trips daily, as against an average of seven trips they were doing before now. Two of them who now drive Uber taxis do an average of 11 trips daily, and more than 15 trips on days when people go to night clubs like Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays,” he says.

According to him, the ride-sharing app has become a “desperate option” because expenses on fuel, vehicular servicing and repairs take about 50 per cent of an average of N150,000 to N180,000 he makes monthly when driving an unstable private taxi car or a wobbly kabukabu.

Since there is no strong financial means of acquiring a car for now, the 44-year-old is looking out to get an Uber-certified taxi he can drive on high purchase and remit a certain percentage of the weekly proceeds to the car owner over a period.

“If I get a higher purchase deal, it will certainly improve my living condition and make me the owner of the car after about three to four years. While believing that this may happen soon, I have been riding okada (commercial motorcycle) since February this year to save money for at least a fairly-used 2007 or 2008 modelled car and feed my family,” says Sule.

With the ban on okada as a taxi form of transportation in Lagos for over five years now, how has he been able to manoeuvre his way through the streets making money and saving for his proposed new car? He says, “With the exit of Babatunde Fashola from office as Lagos State governor in May 2015, the law banning okada has been relaxed and the so called task force officials now collect money from us and allow us to do our business. With Fashola out of the way, no one can impound our bikes anymore and I even make more money riding okada than when I was doing kabukabu.

“In a place like Lagos, the okadas will always be there. But with the presence of Uber and other apps like Taxify, Lyft and Easytaxi, the kabukabus are leaving town, just the way molues left after the Fashola ban and the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transport system and Lagbus comfortable mass transit buses that move on dedicated lanes.”

An Uber driver, Ernest Emmanuel, corroborates Sule’s views, saying that more Nigerians now prefer to link up with a taxi using their smartphones, rather than take the stress of walking from their houses to the nearest bus stop to get one.

Uber

Sharing his Uber driving experience, Emmanuel says, “The Uber driving job is a lot more financially viable than working in a bank at the entry or middle range level. Morning hours are usually the peak time. I have to be awake by 5.30am, and by 6am I log on to the app from my phone and immediately the jobs begin to flood in.

“I spend roughly 12 to 13 hours every day, but can log off earlier if I get tired. I spend more time on weekends when so many people are going to clubs, parties and hangout venues. In a week, I spend not less than 96 hours on the road.”

He adds, “Without a surge, I make around N120,000 a week on the average, after expenses on fuel and toll fares at the international airports and the shopping malls. I make that amount because I drive a Toyota Corolla car that has fuel economy.

“Others who drive Toyota Camry (Muscle) or other brand of cars make about N100,000 after settling all expenses. With a Toyota Corolla, I spend about N26,000 weekly on fuel, while others can spend no less than N30,000.”

Emmanuel also states, “However, when there is a surge, I make about N140,000 weekly. Uber takes 25 per cent of whatever comes in. I also give a certain percentage of what I make weekly to the owner of the vehicle.

“The most important thing is that the experience has been worthwhile. You work for lesser hours and at lesser charges, yet make more money than those who drive kabukabu for many hours and at higher fare rates.

“You are away from the dust and emissions from vehicles, because the Uber cars are full air-conditioned and very comfortable. You don’t cajole or beg for passengers, they are rather the ones who beg for your services online.”

Findings by our correspondent show that Uber is assertively expanding its African footprint. Its operations in Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda have been running since June 2016. Before that, it had been operating in nine cities in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja). After recording its one-millionth trip in Lagos in July, the company said it was planning to expand into a French-speaking West African country.

“We are always looking at cities,” Uber’s General Manager for West Africa, Ebi Atawodi, says.

“In the Central Business District of Lagos, there is one ambulance. So in an emergency, how do you get to the hospital, especially if you can’t drive? But with Uber, people know they can get a car in less than five minutes,” she explains.

Atawodi says the idea of Uber expanding into a French-speaking West African country is also to attract economic activity around its platform other than just offering rides, including attracting car insurers, washers and mechanics, as well as offering credit ratings to individuals who will not otherwise get a bank loan.

Atawodi explains, “In the West, the Uber partners (drivers) tend to drive their own vehicles. In sub-Saharan Africa, they are employed by those who own more than one car.

“What we are starting to see is that many of these people have moved on from becoming drivers to owning their own vehicles. The platform is able to do that by providing Uber data to banks that showed how much they earned per week and how their customers rated them.”

“We think we can be in another 12 African cities before the end of 2017,” the General Manager of Uber’s sub-Saharan African Operations, Alon Lits, says.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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