bumper to bumper

Istanbul Travel Blog

 › entry 7 of 14 › view all entries
It's funny -- before arriving in Turkey, I used to think traffic in and around NYC was bad.  Not anymore, because it seems like a drive down an empty highway compared to Istanbul, where traffic is absolutely insane.   The worst part it's completely unpredictable:  for reasons I haven't yet figured out, rush-hour is a lot more loosely defined (almost to the point where there isn't one), meaning you're almost as likely to get stuck in traffic on a Sunday at 11 AM as you are on a Thursday at 5:30 PM.  To drive in Istanbul you have to have the patience of a saint, the resignation of a death-row inmate, a hefty masochistic streak, a flair for driving on sidewalks, or some combination of the above.  Yet amazingly, I haven't seen that many accidents -- maybe because no one's going fast enough to be unable to avoid them.

This is somewhat surprising, because at least theoretically the extremely high prices of both cars and gasoline (more on this in a later entry) should act to severely curb both automobile ownership and unnecessary driving.  The public transport network is extensive and comparatively cheap, although excepting the few subway, tram and light-rail lines and the ferries plying the Bosphorus, it's mostly road-based in the form of public- and private-run buses, taxis, and dolmuses (a sort of combination taxi/bus).  I expected to see a lot more scooters a la Italy and to a lesser extent Greece, but for some reason they're not very popular (I still think Vespa could make a killing here with the right marketing).

But Istanbul is a very spread-out city, with several different districts which could be construed as a 'downtown'.  Partially because of this, there's only one subway (itself only completed in 2000), currently with six stops, although it's being extended.  The Bosphorus also cuts the city in two, and apart from ferries shuttling back and forth between the Asian and European sides, the only means of crossing the strait is by driving (or being driven) across one of the two existing bridges.  These bridges are two of the main choke points for traffic.  A railway tunnel is currently under construction, which should significantly increase public transportation usage and ease the cross-Bosphorus traffic whenever it's finally completed (current tentative date is 2009, although most Istanbul natives seem to regard that timeframe with a heavy dose of skepticism).  Plus there's not a lot of parking garages, meaning that in the older areas of the city where the roads are narrow to begin with, they're made worse by being choked with parked cars.  Apparently there are some discussions of various methods limit/discourage driving in the neighborhoods suffering from the heaviest traffic, which is a good thing.  Several hundred thousand new cars are registered every year in Turkey, meaning without a lot of work the traffic in Istanbul isn't going to be getting better any time anytime soon.
Helianthes says:
I mean: 350 USD for 5 days a week, each month of the year....
Posted on: Jan 07, 2007
Helianthes says:
you forgot to mention one interesting comment about the traffic in Istanbul: many business people have a driver (350 USD), for 12 hrs a day.
So, here I am, a happy Dutch in Istanbul: breakfast with a newspaper in the car. Can do a lot twice a day 1 1/2 hr in the traffic jam...
Posted on: Jan 07, 2007
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
photo by: Memo