Reader Tim Choi sent in this dispatch about transit in Istanbul, and I thought it made a good blog post! Herein are his thoughts.
I’m currently in Istanbul for the next four months on a student exchange and thought I’d share some transit info with you!
Attached are two pictures of the bus loop at Taksim, the entertainment district of Istanbul.
In the first picture, you see three buses side-by-side, each having just pulled in with only enough room between them for two people to walk past. Later on in the evening, there were eventually SIX buses side-by-side, the 6th stopping in the middle of the road! To the bottom left, you’ll see a ubiquitous water bottle stand – because tap water is not safe to drink, bottled water is in very high demand in Turkey (therefore also very cheap).
The second picture is taken to the right of where I was standing – note the people waiting for the buses in clumps and on the middle of the road – lining up does not happen here.
The buses themselves range from pretty old to very new, depending on the district – the Vancouver equivalents would probably be the old GM Fishbowl ranging all the way to the newest 2009 Nova hybrids. The newer buses are generally made by Mercedes-Benz and also have the advantage of being air-conditioned. They also have a large ~20″ monitor at the front of the bus that shows you all of the stops of the route, colour coded based on whether the stop has passed, is next, or coming up later. Stop Request and Doors Opening are interlinked – pressing the stop button will result in the door nearest to that button to open once the stop has been reached in addition to notifying the driver of the stop.
One very different mode of transportation in Istanbul are the “dolmus” minibuses – slightly smaller than our Community Shuttles, they operate very differently. While they have assigned stops, people can also board or get off wherever they request. Every dolmus is the domain of its own driver – they are not owned by a central company. Thus, safety rules are generally thrown out the window – the driver has no qualms about closing the doors AFTER the bus has started moving. Sometimes, they don’t even close the door at all, such as when the bus is packed so full that a passenger is hanging on just in the doorway! Payment is also very neat – because the door is behind the driver and the buses can get very full, people pay by simply passing their cash fare up to the front via the other passengers. If change is needed, the driver will dig that out from the cash float next to him and pass the change back, every passenger doing their role in getting the money back to the payer – of course, the driver will be driving during all of this!
Istanbul has a Rapid Bus System called the Metrobus. I’m not sure how long they are (see attached photo), but they are longer than our usual 60-footer. Operating in their own private lane on the highway, these buses are VERY frequent – more so than the 99 B-line! They even run all the way through midnight – when I first arrived, it was 1 am in the morning and these Metrobuses had the frequency of the 99 during non-rush hours!
That’s all for now! I might send in some more info later if I encounter any.