Traffic Fm building, Lagos
With a huge mobile population in Lagos, traffic snarl is a major feature of the highways, which the introduction of the traffic radio station has come to remedy, writes Comfort Umoren
In a city with over 15 million inhabitants and a vehicular density of about 224 vehicles/km as against a national average of 15 vehicles/km, traffic congestion is seen as the norm. Being the sixth largest city in the world and one of the fastest growing globally, Lagos habours a diverse group of people engaged in various activities. This has made traffic congestion one of the major challenges facing the mega city.
Virtually all areas of Lagos is affected by the gridlock. Recent findings have proved that some of the causes of traffic jam include bad roads, accidents, impatient drivers, and rush-hour periods, amongst others. However, the introduction of a radio station wholly devoted to disseminating information on traffic in the state has brought some relief to motorists in the state. All you need to do is tune in to 96.1FM before you leave your home or inside your car to monitor traffic information on all routes around the mega city.
In tackling the menace, successive administrations introduced one policy or the other. The Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) came on board in 2002 and in 2008, it introduced the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) with interference free segregated lanes to help ease traffic. Then in 2009, the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) was established to help ensure free flow of vehicular movement in the state.
LAMATA is currently working on new projects such as the Lagos Urban Transport Project and the metro rail – blue line system from Okokomaiko – Marina and the red line from Agbado – Marina as well as the water transport system all in a bid to ease traffic congestion in the state.
In adding to projects put in place to ease traffic and ensuring that ever-busy Lagosians are well informed on traffic situations before hitting the road for the day’s hustling without hindrances, the state government launched the Lagos Traffic Radio 96.1FM on May 29, 2012 to provide the ever-teeming population information on highways and roads in the metropolis. The radio station which is located within the premises of LTV in Agidingbi, Ikeja runs for 19hrs from 5a.m – 12 midnight daily. Most of its programmes are based on traffic reports and traffic enlightenment programmes.
In achieving this, 120 LASTMA officials were picked based on their educational background and those that have nose for news before undergoing training in a two-day workshop on news reporting in order to allow for free flow of traffic information in various parts of the state by LASTMA officials on duty who feed these 120 trained LASTMA officials on traffic situations in their areas of coverage. The trained officials in turn report it live by calling in on the programme. Members of the public are not left out as they also call in to give and ask questions on traffic situations on particular routes.
Listening to the radio station, THISDAY discovered that some of the major places LASTMA monitors called from were in areas like Ikorodu, Apapa, Ojuelegba/Yaba, Iyana – Ipaja, Eko Bridge, Agege, Victoria Island, Third Mainland Bridge, Badagry etc.
Investigations carried out by THISDAY revealed that the former Commissioner for Transportation, Prof. Bamidele Badejo, secured the permit to operate the radio station in 2011 during the ministerial conference on the activities of the ministry.
During the launch of the radio station, the current Commissioner for Transport, Kayode Opeifa, stated that the radio station would help to reduce traffic congestion on Lagos roads as well as alert road users on diversions and provide alternative routes in cases of gridlock. This, he said, would help Lagosians plan their day and reduce travel time thereby solving the issue of traffic congestion.
In an exclusive chat with THISDAY, the Commissioner for Information, Abdul-Lateef Aderemi Ibirogba disclosed that the establishment of the radio station arose from the need to solve issues bordering on road transportation with the awareness of traffic problems in the state caused by the ever-increasing populace of over 15 million and the need to reduce pressure on road facilities as well as manage health risk caused by emission of carbon-monoxide by vehicles.
While addressing the effectiveness of the radio station in reducing traffic congestion in the state since its inception, Ibirogba stated that it has helped Lagosians in planning their journey thus spending less travel time on roads which will also reduce mounting unnecessary pressure on facilities in the state. “People will also go about their daily businesses with ease which will directly or indirectly boost the economy of the state and standard of living of the populace and will allow for relaxation and engagement in other social activities,” he said. He further added that the introduction of the radio station would help the public to appreciate traffic rules and laws as programmes educating the public on these would be aired.
“We have found out that a lot of Lagosians would rather do business in an organised way. Therefore, there will not be need for too many vehicles to be on the road always if there is adequate information on the route they want to ply. Some families put 3-4 cars on the road daily in order to beat time to work, school, market etc thereby increasing the cost of living and the number of cars on the road. If such families have information on these routes they intend to ply or alternative routes, there may not be need to put in so many cars on the road thereby reducing the cost of fueling 3-4 cars, the number of cars on the road and further reducing traffic congestion.
“The radio has helped in making road management more effective. It has given the public an interactive link between them and the government and has made traffic lighter in the state. The station will also provide information on air and water transportation and other inter-modal means of transportation in the state,” Ibirogba explained.
So far, Lagosians have been taking advantage of the radio station to give reports on traffic situations, ask questions on the conditions of routes plied and alternative routes as well as make complaints on bad roads. They also monitor the activities of LASTMA officials thereby serving as a platform for checks and balances on the activities of government officials especially those on uniforms.
THISDAY observed that some measures had been put in place by the government in order to ease traffic, one of the most evident among these measures is the prevention of commercial vehicles from parking and picking passengers especially along traffic–prone areas which is one of the causes of traffic congestion. This exercise is carried out by LASTMA officials as they are now seen in areas known for traffic jam.
Speaking with a civil servant who identified himself as Owolabi Afolabi, he said that eventhough the radio station has not become popular like most radio stations, it has succeeded in helping workers in planning their day citing himself as an example. He narrated how he used to wake up very early just to beat traffic in Apapa area but through the radio station, he has discovered other alternative routes to work.
A commercial bus driver who spoke with THISDAY, Ndubem Ohia, described the radio station as one for business people and workers who do not want to waste valuable time in traffic stating that ‘time is money’. He said the station has helped him know what route to take so as to help his passengers get to their destinations on time and help business to flow normally.
A number of commuters, who also commented on the novel radio station praised the presenters at the station for disseminating information on traffic to listeners. They called on them to also give attention to callers who complain about poorly maintained roads in the state. Like its signature tune; ‘Free the traffic,’ the Lagos Traffic Radio, 96.1, is truly assisting motorists in the state when they move.