Technology and Public Transit

Technology

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I take the LAGBUS and the BRT, so what? About 10,000 Lagosians do so every hour. LAGBUS and BRT are sometimes used interchangeably; primarily because they offer a faster and cheaper transport public service. However, for a premium fare, some of LAGBUS’s buses provide more comfort with an air-conditioned option which visibly differentiates them from the BRT buses.

On days that I am so tired I sleep as soon as I get onto the bus. On a few occasions I have been driven past my bus stop especially when I am travelling on LAGBUS’s air-conditioned services. If only there was a public address system in the bus, the conductor or some onboard digital signage facility to announce our approach at various bus stops . That would have woken me up! (After a hard day’s work, maybe not). Funny enough, the conductors of the infamous yellow commercial buses better known as Danfo or their big brothers – Molue; always announce approaching stop loudly.

The first time I arrived at the Race Course bus terminal late, I looked around for a schedule information service without success. I walked up to an official but he could not be bothered about my plight as he was more interested in the “garage gossip”. My trusty BlackBerry alerted me to a major accident cutting off the flow of traffic from a return route of the buses. “Oh well, I will have to take the commercial bus then”. As I walked away weighing my alternatives, I heard the official snap at someone. Apparently, the man asked same information I had just enquired about, the BRT staff seemed irritated at which point he complained about being tired of talking. “Abeg make una leave me alone jare. I no know when bus dey come. Mouth dey pain me”.

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As I flagged down an approaching “danfo”, I looked pitifully at the long line of people waiting, each of them hoping that the next bus would arrive soon. Unfortunately, they were not privileged to the crucial piece of information I had. If only we can find out easily what services are available, to help us plan a journey on a regular or one off basis. I should not need to be only blackberry dependent in advance to find information about services relevant to me If I don’t have relevant personal technology, I would appreciate technology provided for me (at stops, on vehicles, at significant travel choice points).

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On my last trip to the UK, I remember the London Victoria Coach Station’s eight or so electronics screens displaying route schedules and the accompanying public address system notifying passengers of imminent departures and impending delays. I pondered to myself as to why we could not invest in effective use of technology for passenger information. At peak hours, the queue usually seems endless. Street vendors are seen hawking their wares while the people who sell tickets always seem to have a confused look on their face but do not be deceived, they would take advantage and rip you off your money at the slightest hint of disorientation on your part.

As night falls I look around uneasily and hug my handbag closer as I look suspiciously at any male who wanders too close to me. The bus terminals are always situated close to motor parks and in some instances, share the same space with these parks. It is so easy for these hoodlums who loom large to pick your pocket and blend into the crowd. Heaven knows if I felt comfortable and safe at all times, knowing I am being looked after, and can call for help if necessary my anxiety will be lessened.

Hopefully in the not so distant future I could get information about my travel service before and during my travel which includes knowing when my vehicle is going to arrive at my boarding point and has arrived at my alighting points? A bus network that provides flexible, safe and convenient service tailored to my needs, offering me reliable way to travel to and from work, schools, shops and other services is crucial for people without access to a car and provides genuine choice for those who do. As a member of the staff team at WSE I realise technology integration poses a considerable challenge. I also realise a vision of information and communications technology for public transport nationally is key. I am assuming this is work in progress.

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