Traffic continues to have extremely negative effects on Lagos residents, as the city ranks last in traffic commute time impact on quality of life.
The Nigerian city of Lagos is ranked as the worst city in the world when considering traffic commute time impact on quality of life. This is from the online database, Numbeo, which specializes in tracking quality-of-life metrics. Other cities near the top are two Californian cities, San Jose and Los Angeles in the United States, the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, and Indian cities like Kolkata, Delhi, and Mumbai.
Numbeo’s Traffic Commute Time Index is based on considering other sub-indices which describe the traffic experience. These sub-indices include:
Time index, which represents the average time spent in one-way transportation going from one place to the other within the city;
Time exposure index, which is a measure of the dissatisfaction commuters have with the amount of time that they must spend in traffic. This measure differs from the time index because while some cities may demand long commute times, this may be a result of the geographical size, as opposed to delays;
The inefficiency index, an estimation of inefficiencies in traffic, an example being a situation in which most people in a city are driving individual cars instead of using public transport.
CO2 emission index, an estimation of CO2 consumption due to traffic time.
A combination of factors could lead to a bad traffic situation, including high population density; a poor road network; an abundance of cars; and an absence or a scarcity of public transport, amongst others. Every discussion of traffic will start with population size and/or density. How large is a city, how many people live in it, and how do those play off against each other?
The World Population Review estimates Lagos to have a population of 15.95 million people1 (about the population of New York) in 2023. With a size of about 1,171.28 square kilometres, this creates a population density of about 6,871 residents per square kilometre. Lagos is geographically equivalent to the Texas city of San Antonio in size; San Antonio has a population density of 1,110 residents per square kilometre. Therefore, it will be no surprise that while Lagos is top of the worst traffic commute index, San Antonio is tied for 102nd with the Brazilian city of Curitiba.
Nearly half of all the 13 million vehicles in Nigeria are in Lagos and Kano, with Lagos having over 5 million vehicles plying its roads daily. An inadequate transport system means that most people who can afford a car will buy one. Lagos is home to a growing working class, and most will make car ownership a priority, purchasing one and using it actively. While it is Africa’s largest city, Lagos lies within Nigeria’s smallest state by area, which means the road network cannot possibly support the vehicle numbers.
The CO2 emission index is linked to the air pollution caused in cities with traffic issues. Transportation is one of the leading causes of carbon emissions; millions of cars idling in traffic makes this demonstrably worse. Observations were made during the covid-19 shutdowns in 2020 of how many cities high on the traffic commute index list had cleaner air due to fewer cars on the road. Figures are not precise, but it will be interesting to know how many people suffer health issues due to the poor air quality in Lagos.
There’s no perfect solution to Lagos’s traffic issues. An upscale in public transportation might be beneficial in convincing more people to not drive, and de-congesting the roads. Even better will be the installation of non-car public transportation such as trains. However, with the city’s population expected to continue its rapid climb, it remains to be seen if infrastructure installation can outpace population growth.