The Physics of Improving Lagos Traffic

The Physics of Improving  Lagos Traffic

Logistics is the commercial activity of transporting goods to customers. In moving a commodity from one point to another, a lot of processes take place. Also a lot of challenges are faced. In a difficult terrain like Lagos with relentless traffic issues, many logistic companies are springing up to tackle these long standing challenges. Most are navigating through tiny spaces using motorcycles. This seems to be the obvious means to get going in a city with serious traffic issues.

Let’s take Lagos for instance, along the Lekki – Epe Expressway, an ardent observer will notice the absence of alternative major diversions that lead to a common destination along the road. Look left or right and all you would see is shopping malls, estates and narrow streets most terminating in a close. The cause of traffic congestion could be attributed primarily  to the linear nature of most major roads within the city. The reason I say this is because I have been to many states within the country with very bad road networks, yet very little traffic issues just because there are alternative diversions at regular intervals along the major roads. The obvious absence of diversionary routes along major roads where there are frequent issues of traffic congestion should explain the cause of this problem.

I could highlight a few reasons why there are cases of recurrent traffic congestion in the city:

  • Absence of sufficient diversionary routes
  • Absence of or insufficient  alternative means of transportation (like rail lines)
  • Population of people and vehicles
  • Bad roads.

So in a place like this, navigating through the prevalent logistic challenges, especially where large spaces are needed for haulage or transportation will be very difficult .

To help solve or minimize this problem, the person involved should consider the following:

Route / Path Optimization

Consider that a logistics company wants to deliver goods  to Cities 2,3,4 and 5 starting from their base which is position 1, with the distances between them as shown above.  There are a combination of possible routes to follow to make this delivery process possible. For instance one can decide to travel through cities 1-2-3-5-4-1, this will give a total distance of 15km. If then another logistics man decides to go through cities 1-5-3-2-4-1, it will make a total of 19km. This shows that an in-depth understanding of routes should be among the priorities of logistic companies thinking of delivering goods at the lowest cost possible. This kind of problem is known as The Travelling Salesman problem and   can be solved using different dynamic programming methods. The idea is to get the shortest route possible for delivery. A computer programme could be developed to specifically check out all the possible combinations and iterations, and then highlight the one with the shortest path. In small logistics companies, route differences could be unimportant or insignificant, but in large complex organization with global spread, the cost differences in routes could run into millions of dollars at the end of a fiscal year.

Traffic Information and Update

For effective delivery, a courier man should have an update on the traffic situations at any given time. So a courier man should be able to call a central radio base for immediate traffic details or he could be called to be given updates.

Another alternative is for every road user who is interested in receiving real time traffic update to sign in to also giving out, preferably  automatically his real time position and traffic situation. This forms a network of people giving out relevant data to whoever needs it, just when it is needed.

There are so many other variables that come into play which can make a particular route that seems efficient not so efficient. Such includes the prevailing road conditions. In other words, bad roads and insecurity. Some roads are more secure than others, and some are in better condition than others. So a wholistic approach should be followed. An approach that doesn’t try to exclude any index for road worthiness.

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2 thoughts on “The Physics of Improving Lagos Traffic

  1. Obinna, thank you for your erudite analysis of Lagos traffic. Lagos Island , Lekki and Ikorodu , Ajegunle and most minor parts of Lagos are connected by the Lagoon and waterways. Why don’t Lagos state concentrate on using the water ways as a logistic system instead of congesting the roads. I have always wondered why Port Harcourt in River State does not do the same thing with their waterways.


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