Wemoove: The Future of Lagos Public Transit — Research & Proposed Solutions (Part 1 of 3)

An attempt at redesigning the Lagos public transit experience.

Oluwatoyin Fari
May 15, 2017 · 11 min read

Note: This is the first part of three articles detailing my design process in an attempt in creating a better experience for an average Lagos Commuter. This first article is focused on the problems, user research, and proposed solution.

The Problem

The growing population and rapid development of Lagos have placed a big strain on the city’s public transportation system. Traffic congestion is a massive problem in Lagos, and despite the past improvements to public transportation and road networks to try and ease this, it can still take hours to travel just a few kilometers.

Lagos has a population of over 21 million people. The population growth of Lagos is faster than that of London and New York put together, with the two cities growing at a rate of 9 and 10 people per hour. Earlier in 2015, London reached a record of 8.6 million inhabitants, while Lagos grossed over 20 million inhabitants in the same year.

In Lagos, a majority of inhabitants rely on public transit which includes — the popular yellow commercial buses “Danfo”, “Molue”, BRT and Keke Napep but the “Danfo” and BRT still remain one of the most popular means of transportation.

The “Danfo” bus is a modified 14 sitter Volkswagen Transporter. The bus is controlled by a team of two — The Driver and Bus Conductor. The driver obviously drives while the bus conductor is responsible for collecting fares, calling in passengers and basically controlling anything that the driver may not pay attention to. The bus is mostly owned by the driver and he finds a conductor to support him. This team of two determine their routes and fares.

These buses are also mostly used for longer distance commutes across the city because they cover major routes and are the dominant vehicles in all bus stops. “Danfo” drivers are known for their reckless driving and behavior, stopping in the wrong lane to pick passengers and disregarding traffic rules.

Photo from YNaija- Bus Conductor calling in passengers

BRT buses are owned by the government. These buses can comfortably take about 36 passengers. They have dedicated lanes with minimal stops, the fares are cheaper (tickets are sold at fixed prices), they are quite comfortable which makes them very overcrowded. Ever since the operation of the fully new air-conditioned buses, there has been an increase in the percentage of Lagosians who have resorted in patronizing them.

Photo from naij.com — Passengers waiting for BRT bus

Generally, the present connectivity mode in Lagos is not acceptable and befitting for a mega city. Using public transit tends to be a very stressful experience, especially for people that are not familiar with the city or the system. They have to figure out routes, sometimes rely on word of mouth on where to get a bus, what type of bus and how much will get them to their destination.

Also, living practically on the road has been part of the experience of many residents of the city because of the traffic situation but somehow, they have adapted to these extremely difficult situations.

My What If Moment

What if there was a reliable and better public transportation system in Lagos?

What if the look and experience were improved on?

Transportation has a major impact on the quality of life in a city, its environment, and the economy. These prompted me to look deeper into problems and then find solutions to better the experience of an average Lagos Commuter.

User Research

How do you solve public transit system problems without access to important data?

The purpose of this research was to understand the current situation, problems, constraints, people’s experiences, and opinions about the public transportation system in Lagos.

First of all, I conducted an online survey with 30 people and this was the result:

  • 66.66% were male and the other 33.3% female
  • 56.6% were under the working class category, 13% self-employed, 7% unemployed and 23.3% students
  • 80% were in the age range of 21–30
  • 60% are smartphone savvy
  • 30% have lived in Lagos all their lives
  • 86.6% use public transportation as a means of movement daily
  • 76.6% mostly use the famous yellow bus “Danfo” to move around
  • 70% said they use it because they have no choice while the others said they use it because it’s easily accessible
  • 100% said they are not happy with the experience that comes with using public transit in Lagos
  • 50% said the biggest problem of public transit in Lagos is waiting and queuing for a bus, 33.3% said poorly maintained vehicles while the other 16.6% said reckless bus drivers
  • 80% said comfort is very important to them
  • Describe Lagos public transit system in three words and the most mentioned were Stressful, Unreliable, Uncomfortable, Dirty, and Unbefitting.

I was fully aware that the category of people I got my data from was completely different from the category of people on the street. I had to make sure I wasn’t leaving any category out so I went further to question more people on the streets.

I asked them about their transit experience and also to take me through their process of taking a bus. I asked the following question:

  • How they plan their routes
  • When they start planning their route
  • What they do when they’re going somewhere they’ve never been before
  • How they identify where their stop is

I also asked about the things they will like to see improved about Lagos public transit system and the reasons behind these ideas/wishes.

In order to make this brief, I wouldn’t be able to write all the answers I got from both the survey and interviews.

Randomly, I found some funny and enlightening threads on twitter that summarized different views from people about Lagos public transit. You can find them here and here.

Some screenshots from the thread

This was a very interesting exercise, I got to go deep down into people’s mind, I was opened to many other problems I didn’t even think existed. Experiencing some of these problems firsthand did help me understand the users, analyze the current scenario better and directed me on what path to take.

When you understand the user’s perspective, you make products better suited to them.

Personas

From my research and interview, I concluded that there are four different categories of public transit users so I created personas to represent them.

Due to time and available resources, it won’t be easy to implement solutions to help the last category of user(offline — without access to technology or smartphone) but it would have been great to actually create a wonderful offline experience as they form the biggest percentage of people who use public transit in Lagos.

The two primary personas represent the audience at which I have decided to focus on, they are both in their 20s and are familiar with using apps on smartphones, they are the ones who are mostly interested in an easy and reliable way to move around with better real-time data & communication.

Femi Akande — Primary Persona 1
Cynthia Agbor — Primary Persona 2

The secondary persona represents a population to which I would like my design solution to appeal to. He is willing to give public transit a shot but always runs into issues, so he bails and just drives.

Usman Muhammed — Secondary Persona

Identifying the problems that your users need to be solved is a very crucial step.

Finding Solutions

After brainstorming, researching, talking to people and having a better understanding of who I would be designing for, it was time to make use of all these pieces of information to find a solution. I categorized and prioritized the most common and most pressing pain points and would be highlighting them with the various ways they can be solved.

Solution 1
Having fewer cars on the road.
How can this happen? Making sure public transit is in good shape, convenient, and offers a good experience. It will give people the option to leave their cars at home and use it only when necessary.

Solution 2 — Divert people into alternative routes by bringing their attention to the different routes options leading to a particular destination. It gives them the choice of picking, thereby decongesting a particular route.

Solution 3 — Making traffic information available so that everyone is aware of what lies ahead. This helps to plan in advance and will allow people to do something more productive with their time.

Solution 4 — Currently the BRT buses are given priority on some selected routes but to efficiently improve bus routes there should be more convenient routes to places that are highly concentrated — large employment, shopping, and recreation centers.

Solution 5 — Providing extra buses during peak periods in the morning and evenings.

Solution 6 — Proper maintenance or expansion of roads can help reduce traffic but the latter might overtime increase the number of cars on the road.

To create a very efficient and well-structured transport system, time and information are key. The plan is to leverage the use of technology to create an experience with high efficiency.

Solution 1 — Making live service information available to people on their mobile phones, and other devices. It would help solve the problem of waiting and queueing, finding directions, getting the best route options and fare estimate to a particular place.

Recently Lara.ng (a chatbot) was launched to provide public transit information such as directions and the estimated amount of bus fare to anywhere in Lagos. This is a great idea as it helps to solve part of the problem. But on the other hand, after finding directions and getting fare estimates, you still have to go queue/wait for a bus or battle with the bus conductor because of change.

Solution 2 — For people without access to technology, digital and roadside signs should be placed in public locations like school, shopping centers, and bus stops. Roadside signs should show maps, nearest bus stops, and route options while the digital signs can show live bus arrival information and also information like how long it is to your next stop both at the public locations and inside the buses.

Solution 1 — Providing an avenue for a transportation budget. There could be bus cards which people load money on at their convenience and fares will be deducted for every trip taken. This even reduces cash handling for commuters.

I did another research about this payment issue and realized the Lagos state government had tried to implement an electronic travel payment card called Lagos Connect in 2013. Fares were charged when the passengers tap the cards at the entry and exit point of the bus but this didn’t exactly work out because of some drawbacks.

One of the problems passengers had with that payment structure was that most of the BRT buses that stopped at the bus stops didn’t have the tap-to-pay machines and some of the ones that did were not working properly. So passengers were not able to use their cards and eventually have to buy physical tickets. It was also mentioned that some of the drivers intentionally don’t turn the machine on because they feel they won’t make enough money from it. Some didn’t even know it wasn’t working and the others who did don’t bother to report to the right authorities to fix it.

Another issue was customer service, when passengers had difficulties with using the card, charged extra, or misplaced their card, they never get any reply or the reply was being delayed unnecessarily.

However, even though it might take time before people embrace this, I believe this can still work out if an effort was made to make this process more user-friendly, maintained properly and has great customer service to back it up.

Solution 2 — Currently, BRT buses operate with the use of tickets but only per trip. We could go further by creating daily tickets where people pay a fixed amount for all transport for a single day, no matter where. A weekly ticket scenario could also be in place. This eliminates the need for conductors or change, it even creates opportunities for discounted bus fares.

Note: The electronic payment is only one of the options for payment, it doesn’t mean cash would not be accepted.

The average user story from people who use the current public transport system is based on high inconvenience (bad seats, rude conductors, garage problems, buses in poor conditions, reckless drivers, etc) which in turn makes them end up with a below par user experience.

Solution — Lagos needs better-improved buses with a better look and experience

There is never one solution, it’s always a range of solutions, so sometimes it’s good to have a plan b for every situation.

Concerns

Putting aside the solutions that are infrastructure-related and focusing on others, I want to think beyond the capabilities of the current system and constraints of technology.

How can real-time information be provided?

How can the current bus experience be changed?

Introducing Wemoove

Let me live in my imagination for a minute. What if we had a smart public transit bus line called Wemoove? A new bus line with a better look and experience, safe, very efficient, technology-driven, well-structured and maintained to facilitate ease of movement within the city.

This bus will have an app that will provide reliable real-time data and ways to make payments, making it simple and more reliable for people to get to their destination.

What features will this bus and app have that will make the lives of people like Femi, Cynthia, and Usman easy?

In my next article, I will be defining what features will help achieve the user’s goal and prioritizing the most important.

You can find it in the link below


Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it, If you did, please hit the ♥ button below, and share it.

Are you happy with your Lagos public transit experience? If you have feedback or suggestions on this project, I’ll be happy to hear your thoughts. Feel free to get in touch, my twitter handle is @teefarie

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Oluwatoyin Fari

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• Experience Designer • Fitness Enthusiast • www.faritoyin.com

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