Proposed Kano bus mass transit/bus rapid transit in Kano: matters arising- Nura Hassan

Nura Hassan

Kano metropolis is a rapidly growing centre that is in constant need for an innovative urban management system which includes the development of an efficient urban transport system.

This perhaps informed the statement from the new Commissioner of Transport and Housing Mahmoud Muhammad Santsi that the State Government has finalized its arrangements for the take-off of the newly introduced Bus Mass Transit system in Kano Metropolis when he inspected some newly branded buses stationed at Hotoro for the commencement of the Bus Mass Transit (BMT) system in Kano. He added that the state has signed MOU with Messrs Shaaanxi Company and Zoec Construction Ltd., for the provision of buses and bus terminals for the commencement of this mass transit system.

This is, of course, a welcome development particularly at this material time,  Kano State is no doubt assuming the status of the megacity and the development of transport is key in putting the state on a transport map. The provision of the reliable mass transport system to accommodate the state’s population surge is an important catalyst for its economic development and spatial integration.

The drive by this administration is a timely positive intervention if rooted on sound pedestal guided by policy and expertise. The transport policy dialogue communique of 2016 affirms the state’s readiness in looking at Lagos as a role model.

This system of mass people movement has so many advantages because it is effective, efficient, and reliable and above all, its uncompromising safety. The idea of light rail operations in Kano rests on reliable well-guided BRT/BMT to facilitate intermodal transportation in the metropolis.

It is in this regard, that I want to highlight some issues regarding this BMT/BRT system to enable the teeming population to understand the circumstances surrounding its conceptualisation and its implications. It is important at this juncture to draw the attention of the new actors of the transport management in Kano State on how the issues of BMT/BRT started in state to enable them to revisit the well guided professional best practice preparation stages to avoid a short-lived or flash operation.

The state transport sector had received technical support for the development of institutional and regulatory framework from the World Bank and Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility, a DFID funded programme.

The outcomes of such technical support are tailored towards putting in place a transport planning authority to champion the establishment of the public mass transport systems such as Bus Mass Transit (BMT) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and other related forms of the public transportation system.

In the area of establishment of BMT/BRT, a lot of technical studies were conducted to provide an evidence-based framework to guide the implementation of these modern transport systems. The technical studies cut across policy and institutional arrangement as well as public transport planning and concept design.

The policy support includes the development of transport policy for Kano, drafting the legislation for the establishment of Kano Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (KAMATA), organisational structure for Kano Roads Transport Authority (KAROTA), operational and maintenance assessment of Kano Line, the study of the 2- and 3-wheeler industry in Kano, a study on the socioeconomic impact on the ban of ‘achaba’ operation in Kano etc, On the transport planning which is critical for the development of BRT/BMT system includes the development of preliminary strategic transport master plan, a road map for the establishment of the public transport system, Kano travel demand surveys, fast track corridors viability studies on Katsina, Zaria and Gwarzo corridors etc.

The concept design supports are based on the outcomes of transport planning support. The technical studies include a pre-feasibility study on a concept design for transport Hubs/terminals in Kano Metropolis, bus route corridor concept design, alternatives analysis study on Murtala Mohammed way through Katsina road.

The technical studies are expected to provide the ground for the re-positioning the transport sector and by extension the public transport system with the then Ministry of Works, Housing and Transport providing only policy direction.

It is on this note, that there are so many questions surrounding the commencement of such important operations. Professionally, it is expected that based on the stages of BMT/BRT operations from technical studies in the domain Ministry of Housing and Transport, competitive bidding is required for the engagement of any operator, this will allow the Government to select competent operator/s with a proven track record of operations in the past.

This will provide a local and international window for the licensing of any competent operator because Kano public transport environment should not be akin to children playing court because of its overbearing application to many sectors of the state’s economy. I believe, the new actors of transport management in Kano may not be in the know of these critical stages which stand worthy of revisiting for the successful commencement of BMT/BRT operations and compromising on this critical stages that will inevitably spell doom for the system thereby eventual eroding the confidence of the system by the public if commences on wrong footing.

A key prerequisite component for BMT/BRT system in Kano is the Kano Travel Demand Surveys (KTDS), the largest data set that had examined existing travel patterns, land use and social infrastructure in Kano.

Two of the outcomes of the surveys are the average passenger demand and the number of buses needed for real BMT/BRT operations. Zaria corridor from Eastern bye pass to Yankura, a distance of about 15.8 Km requires approximately 140-152 buses for BMT/BRT operations as at 2012 based on average passenger demand of 119,726. This number is expected to have doubled requiring for more number of buses based on different projections and scenarios.

The buses needed for the service must be suitable for use on intensive bus services and capable of withstanding the operating conditions specific to Kano. Experts are of the view that rigid single deck bus, approximately 12 metres in length with a front engine and high floor, and capacity for 90 passengers with approximately 40 seated is required for this service. Moving away from the southern part of Kano Metropolis to Katsina road corridor in the Western part, it has been calculated that the peak passenger volume is 5,643 passengers per hour, between the hour 09:00 and 10:00 am.  At a maximum capacity of 90 passengers per bus, this equates to 63 buses per hour, or one bus every 60/63 = 0.95 minutes (or every 57 seconds).  With a round trip time of 116 minutes, the total bus requirement will be 116/0.95 = 122.

The total number of buses required for the pilot corridor was put at 201 buses. Gwarzo corridor requires about 91 buses with 9-10 am hourly demand of 61 buses for 4,795 passengers. These are some of the statistics on only three corridors with no space in this writing to further enumerate other routes requirements in Kano Metropolis. The essence of providing the above statistics is to draw the attention of the government on the needful requirements because we believe that the essence of embarking on such projects is for the betterment of the teeming population of Kano Metropolis as any shortfall below these basic requirements may defeat the objectives of this entire public transport intervention and place the state to be a subject of ridicule.

The Commissioner may like to know that Lagos State, the leading state in the Federation in terms of BRT/BMT provision with a planning authority- Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport

Average Weekday Travel Demand on Kano Metropolitan BMT/BRT routes

Authority (LAMATA), an agency under the state Ministry of Transport populated by world-class experts has unveils 550 buses on 13.68 kilometre-long corridor of Oshodi- Abule Egba just last week. The Oshodi-Abule Egba corridor is a major link for residents who commute in and out of Alimosho, Egbeda, Ijaiye, Iyana Ipaja and Oshodi.

The route is also a gateway to neighbouring Ogun State and Republic of Benin. The route with only about 60,000 commuters (based on research) requires 550 high and medium capacity buses with the upgraded-ticketing system.

In the words of the Lagos State Governor, “ Travel time, which is estimated at an average of two hours during peak periods, will be significantly reduced to an average of 30 minutes. This will improve the health of our people, engender a safer environment, and increase the value of socio-economic activities in the State.”

As a consultant in the transport industry, I know that all the indices that led to the establishment of a well-guided successful BRT and likewise BMT in Lagos are a product of detailed technical studies with the results fully put in place for the benefits of Lagos population. The Kano project looks like the State Government is not ready for it. The approach they adopt is the copy and paste approach because the technical requirements for the project have not been met.

Away from travel demand statistics, the licensed operator should be able to provide the vehicle life, organisational structure, operating system and procedure, fleet maintenance system, operating cost and revenues, fare levels etc. these combined on the procedural standard set by the government in procuring an operator is critical for successful public transport operation.

The Transport department has the mandate to advise the government on the issues relating to private sector participation, however, either due to low technical competence or other reasons, the department is unable to do so. At the moment, the licensed operator has less than thirty buses on the routes that demand over 500 buses. The whole projects look like a joke and one wonders if the State Executive Council is fully aware of the implications of this project.

The provision of critical Do-Minimum infrastructure is a pre-requisite for BMT/BRT operations. The infrastructure includes bus stops, laybys, and concourse, foyer, terminals, depots, traffic safety measures, pedestrian bridges, street lighting, etc. The spatial positioning of these paraphernalia are linked to detailed route assessment and technical guidance for long, medium and short running routes. It is not likely that the company commissioned has the capacity to deliver.

In conclusion, in Nov, 2016, transport policy stakeholder consultation where issues of critical concerns for the repositioning of transport sector was discussed and rested on fast-tracking the adoption of the draft Kano state transport policy to anchor the institutional and regulatory drive of this present administration in turning around the transport sector. The policy provides an internal ‘thinking’ and visioning process of transforming the Transport System in Kano State. It gave recommendations on transport policy options that will create an enabling environment for the introduction of a sustainable urban transport system in the state through Private Sector Participation. It is desirable if this new Ministry of transport will revisit this policy and fast track its adoption to rail the vision and mission of the state fully guided towards maximum efficiency.

In the transport policy communique issued, the entrenchment of the principle of professionalism and standardization in the transport sector was recommended. This is expected to revolve not only on the provision of the public transport system in the state but the entire system of transport operations.

With this transport policy dialogue communique, transport policy document and world-class technical studies that gulped colossal amount of resources funded by development partners called for the commissioner to revisit them may enable the Government to properly re-kick start the pieces of machinery of this ministry and equally root the commencement of BRT/BMT on a positive with the Ministry anchoring the policy direction.

Nura Ibrahim Hassan, Writes from Kano State. He is an Urban Transport Expert and Phd Doctorate student at Bayero University Kano and can be reached at Ibrahimnura22@gmail.com

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