Can Carpooling Ease the Istanbul Commute? A Bus Rider's Pessimistic View

istanbul commute traffic bus passengers photo

Traffic jam in Istanbul. Photo by patrik sneyd I photos via Flickr.

With the onset of the winter rains, Istanbul's already congested roadways became a sea of stationary lights last night, turning my typically 45-minute commute into a two-hour-plus one. As a group of us disembarked from our company-provided bus after almost an hour and half on board and walked alongside the freeway in the rain to the nearest metrobus stop, it was cold comfort that the Istanbul municipality reportedly plans to introduce a carpooling system in the new year.The municipality has been planning for the last six months to introduce a carpooling system where people can meet online to make plans to travel together, a system similar to those that some 5 million people throughout Europe have signed up for, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review reported:

Last week, people logging in to the Traffic Control Center Web site to check the latest traffic reports before leaving home found an invitation to begin carpooling. On the same page, there was also a banner that had been used in the United States in 1942 depicting a U.S. military convoy and civilian cars, reading, "They did, and we can do so as well."

'There is Room in My Car'
Though the promotion was apparently not meant for public display yet, during the couple of days it was visible, more than 100 people reportedly signed up for the service, which is set to launch on New Year's Eve. There are currently three online carpooling companies operating in Turkey, including the awesomely named ("we are travelers on the same road") and ("there is room in my car").

In many ways, carpooling seems perfect for Turkey, where people are already quite used to shared transportation. Most large companies provide service buses (such as the on I was stuck on) for their employees, and an extensive dolmuş system of private mini-buses and vans -- they get their name, which means "full," from the fact that drivers traditionally wait to have enough people going to the same destination before they set off -- serves big city and small towns alike.

City Needs Carpool Lanes Too
So it's not that I'm pessimistic that people would be willing to carpool. But even if every single driver doubled up -- taking half the cars, in theory, off the road -- there still would have been a heck of a lot of traffic last night.

Istanbul's much-touted metrobus, which runs in its own lane, is indeed speedy and efficient -- if it goes where you're going. But as far as I can tell, there are no carpooling lanes (or if they are, they're not enforced), at least not on my long commute route, making the benefit of carpooling a bit dubious.

Without a separate lane to speed the passage of regular city buses, service buses, dolmuş vehicles, and carpoolers, those who opt to drive together will have little to show for it besides someone to chat with while they sit in traffic.

More about carpooling
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Which Internet Carpool Service is Right for You?
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Online Carpooling Connections Get Easier With PickUpPal
Rock Band Encourages Fans to Carpool to Their Concerts
Casual Car Pool: Easing the Commute in the Bay Area

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