Istanbul's Public Transit Plans: 12 Million People, Almost as Many Ideas for Moving Them Around

istanbul public transit collage bus tramway photo

Clockwise from top left: Istanbul bus, 'nostalgic tramway,' metrobus, and funicular. Photos: IETT.

Once upon a time -- way back in 1871 -- Istanbul had some of the most innovative public transportation around. The Tünel funicular, which still carries tourists and residents alike up the steep hill from Karaköy to the southern end of Istiklal Caddesi, was the second underground subway line in the world, after London's. Maalesef (alas), it took 129 years for the city to open another one.

The historic ferry system plying the Bosphorus between Istanbul's Asian and European sides is as scenic and enjoyable as public transit gets, but land-bound options have lagged behind. Though bus and dolmuş (private mini-buses) routes crisscross the city, most face the same traffic woes as private cars. A light-rail metro, opened in 1994, and the finally expanded subway are generally clean, quick, and efficient, but fall far short of full coverage.

Efforts To Remedy Congestion
The municipality and transportation authority are making various efforts to remedy the congestion problem -- with varying levels of success. A new metrobus line on a dedicated highway lane between the airport and the city center promises to cut down transit times significantly, but even Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan admits that the hastily built system is incomplete and "still has some deficiencies."

In their efforts to unclog the city's streets, planners seem to swing between trying to minimize the use of cars and trying to make more room for them. The Marmaray Project, an underwater tube tunnel for mass transit, is scheduled to be completed in late 2011. But a separate tunnel for cars is also in the works, and construction of a third vehicular bridge across the Bosphorus is proposed.

And some ideas seem to take the "public" out of public transportation entirely, like a new heli-taxi service catering to businesspeople and a small fleet of on-call water taxis. Venice shouldn't worry about any competition from the latter, though -- the water taxi crashed on its inaugural trip. Via: "The heyday of public transportation in Istanbul," Today’s Zaman

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