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What is an Efficient, yet Low-Cost Alternative to the Transportation Woes of Developing Countries?

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Oguntola Tobi
Oguntola Tobi Nov 27, 2021
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Necessity

Is the problem still unsolved?

Conciseness

Is it concisely described?

Background
Nigeria, where I come from, has one of the lowest rates of vehicle ownership in the world. If this Wikipedia list is accurate, there 64 vehicles to every 1,000 persons in the country. Compare this to San Marino where there are 1,263 vehicles to every 1,000 individuals and the USA with 816 per the same number of people.
To make matters worse, other forms of transportation in the country are either in their nascent stages, non-existent, or have rundown. And building a robust transport infrastructure that will cater to people's needs will require funds as well as political will that simply do not exist.
The Problem
Many times, due to the poor transport system, people are left stranded when commercial drivers decide to hike their prices or not work at all.
And to be honest, we can't always blame them for this. While their reason is sometimes greed, other times, it is the result of less than ideal weather conditions or a hike in pump price.
From personal experience, such occurences are neither good for people's peace of mind nor their health. Many times, I have been stuck in the rain cold and frustrated as hell, and jostling with scores of people for the limited number of vehicles willing to work at that time. One of such experiences led to this idea.
Question:
With a knowledge of what's at stake, what would be a low-cost and innovative means of transportation to solve it?
I'll love to hear your thoughts below.
Thanks!
5
Creative contributions

solar tuk-tuks

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Vered Ehsani
Vered Ehsani Dec 08, 2021
Economies are rapidly changing, so what is unaffordable now becomes the norm next year. Tuk-tuks offer great versatility, are culturally appropriate, protect people from the rain, can be purchased privately at affordable prices and can be set up as solar-powered electric vehicles. (The non-electric versions are highly polluting as they mainly use 2-stroke engines.) There's definitely a market for entrepreneurs to jump in with local production.
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Small-Scale Rail System for Intra-Neighbourhood Movement

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Oguntola Tobi
Oguntola Tobi Nov 29, 2021
Maybe my world view is limited, but I have never seen an application of the rail system on a small scale.
For instance, I have been to parks where they have small train rides for guests. However, I have never come across a real world application of this for transportation purpose.
The Idea
What I envision is not a train, but a means of transportation that utilizes the rail system. Imagine an item with the shape and width of a skateboard or hoverboard. Now, imagine a narrow rail that this object can fit on snugly. This object will have internal gears that will interract with the rail and propel it forward. And to ensure people can keep their balance and not fall off while it moves, there will, quite naturally, be railings by the side they can hold on to.
For sustainability purposes, the entire system will run on electricity.
There will be an operator for this apparatus who will control the running and ensure people pay for using the service. It can operate like a train or bus station: commuters can only use it at certain, pre-set periods.
Also, this invention is not a train. As such, it should operate within short distances only. People can hop from one terminal to another if they are going to longer distances, much like we already do with trains.
An Alternative
This idea also uses the rail system. However, instead of having a skateboard-like device, there will be a scooter-like device with a pedal attached. The user can then use this pedal to propel the apparatus, much like a cyclist does.
Replace the scooter-like device with a seat and the idea still works.
This occludes the need for electricity, and makes the devices easier to operate.
What is the Merit of this Idea?
Such an application of the rail system will, obviously, cost less than the train or electric rail car apparatus. Also, it will be easier to set up and maintain, thus making it an ideal fit for developing countries.
By the way, it will be a slow means of transportation. But that is the price to pay for its low-budget nature.
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Transport eco-systems

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Vered Ehsani
Vered Ehsani Dec 07, 2021
Adding more private cars is not the solution -- more traffic, air pollution, road accidents etc. Nor is there a single cure that will do the trick for everyone in every location.
Think in terms of eco-systems. Multiple transport options, each with a specific and sometimes overlapping niche. Some of it will need to be government or public-private funded, especially for major trunk lines with heavy usage. Bus Rapid Transit systems or similar are excellent, relatively low-cost options (as opposed to underground Metro and overhead rails).
Private or public-private mini-bus companies handle arteries.
Last-mile solutions tend to be the most challenging. They can be covered by Uber-type options (motorcycles being a common vehicle used) and non-motorized transport (bicycles, walking).
Electric bicycles are becoming an increasingly viable option.
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Oguntola Tobi
Oguntola Tobi2 months ago
I agree that more private cars is not the solution, I mentioned it to outline the dire situation of the transport system: low vehicle to people ratio, alongside a non-existent rail system, coupled with the fact that only the richest people in the country can afford flight tickets.
I agree the thinking should be in terms of eco-systems. There have been attempts at Bus Rapid Transit systems in some cities. I believe they've been successful but also inadequate. Non-motorized transport is a great option, and the best route, like you said.
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Vered Ehsani
Vered Ehsani2 months ago
Oguntola Tobi Glad you agree about private cars because it only benefits the wealthy. However, they have a role which will become more useful as we move into electric, self-driving versions which can then collaborate with the rest of the system. But for the +47% of Africa's urban population who use walking as the main mode of transport, we need to re-think cultural attitudes toward bicycles. It's seen as a poor man's tool (and not often used by women).
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Oguntola Tobi
Oguntola Tobi2 months ago
Vered Ehsani I think a shift into people's attitudes toward bicycles is important and will help alleviate this problem. However, the chaotic state of our roads, as well as the unaffordability of new bicycles might pose a problem.
I think the second problem is easily solvable:
  • Purchase used and refurbished bicyles
  • Communities and groups can crowdfund to buy bicycles and have schedules for how they use them
  • Intervention programs that buy bicycles for the less privileged
....are some of the ideas that come to mind.
I can't think of an easy solution for the first, though. Do you have ideas?
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Communally built/owned car factory that produces an all-terrain type of minibus

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Dec 08, 2021
The idea is for people themselves to start producing a simple, versatile minibus for the local market. It could be started by several local mechanics/engineers and over time grow into a full-blown factory.
Such a factory sustained a third of the families in my town for decades and built small trucks that were essential in the wider region. This wiki page talks about the new version of the factory, but take a look at the history section.
This example (Pinzgauer) is from a neighboring country and looks cool in my opinion:
Build it with simplicity, reliability and cost efficiency in mind.
It would be amazing if the machine was built so that the parts that cannot easily be replaced should be virtually indestructible. The parts that are replaceable should fit from any other manufacturer.
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Oguntola Tobi
Oguntola Tobi2 months ago
I think this is the best idea on this thread so far. However, getting the materials to produce these vehicles is the problem.
We have many talented artisans and mechanics in the country, but access to materials is the barrier to full exploration of their potentials.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 months ago
Maybe people could start by building these out of parts that are most readily available in the country. It would be amazing if the machine was eventually built so that the parts that cannot easily be replaced should be virtually indestructible. The parts that are replaceable should fit from any other manufacturer.
Little by little start replacing the parts with home-built ones. This means establishing supporting factories over time. This would create jobs for many people. The same people will then pay for the transport, which will make economic sense for building the trucks.
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Model Thailand's tuk-tuks

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Dec 08, 2021
Thailand solves this problem with tuk-tuks. The small ones carry a few passengers and are basically a converted motorbike:


The big ones are converted pickups:

The biggest are converted trucks:

Pick reliable machines that can be serviced by any local mechanic and convert them to transport passengers.
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Oguntola Tobi
Oguntola Tobi2 months ago
We have a version of the tuk-tuk but I doubt they are as cheap as these, so I think there is a market for it. And the converted trucks idea reallyyyy appeals to me.
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