Today in Transportation History – March 17, 2008: The First Bus Rapid Transit System in Africa

The first section of a bus rapid transit system in the Nigerian state of Lagos (in the southwestern part of the nation) began operations. The Lagos Bus Rapid Transit System (Lagos BRT), which is run by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, was inaugurated to help address the ever-increasing traffic congestion challenges facing this region of Nigeria. These challenges have been acute in and near the city of Lagos, the center of the largest urban area in not only its namesake state but all of Nigeria. With a population of approximately 16 million people, Lagos is also one of the world’s fastest growing cities.

The first-ever bus rapid transit system was introduced in the Brazilian city of Curitiba in 1974, and a key part of this approach to public transportation in the years since has involved combining the flexibility and lower costs of conventional buses with the speed and capacity traditionally associated with light rail services. A leading feature of Lagos BRT has been the establishment of dedicated lanes for exclusive use by the system’s buses. The idea behind these lanes has been to allow the buses to stay clear of traffic tie-ups and remain on schedule.

Lagos BRT started out with a fleet of 100 buses operating on major routes such as the expressway Ikorodu Road and highway Funsho Williams Avenue. In its first 100 days of service, Lagos BRT transported 9.7 million passengers.

Lagos BRT became Africa’s first bus rapid transit system when it was implemented in 2008. Similar transit networks have since been launched in Morocco, Tanzania, and South Africa.

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