Istanbul is one of the few mega cities where new infrastructure is growing a bit faster than its enormous traffic problems. No small achievement, as infrastructure was neglected for decades.
For a long time, travelling by car or public bus were the only options. By the end of the 20th century new master plans were designed and implemented. This decade alone, the number of Bosporus crossings will grow from three (the Marmaray tunnel was opened in 2013) to six: one more bridge (2016) and two more tunnels. The present double deck tunnel in the most Southern part of the Bosporus will be ready in 2016 (ahead of schedule) and the triple deck tunnel in the middle of the Bosporus is scheduled for opening in 2020.
Istanbul becoming a global metro city
My favorite transport development in Istanbul however is the fast expanding metro network. Each time I take the Istanbul metro I am fascinated by a simple, but effective promotion movie that is being played continuously: one metro line slowly appears, then hesitantly a few more, and soon the years and additional lines quickly succeed each other. From 10 km in 2004 to 140 km in 2014, 430 km in 2019 and 760 km thereafter, ultimately resulting in Istanbul having one of the largest metro networks in the world. The predicted number of passengers regularly using the metro will be 7 million in 2016 and 11 million in 2019.
Tünel metrol line: world’s second oldest
London was the first city to open a metro, but Istanbul was a close second with the ‘Tünel Connection’ between Istiklal Caddesi (Tünel Square) and Karaköy.
The Tünel is 573 m long with an altitude difference of 60 m. It has been continuously in service since 1875. It was originally steam-powered with two wooden trains serving parallel tracks. About 15,000 people use the line each day. Especially popular (with me for sure) if one returns home and being too lazy to walk up the hill.
The start and development of Istanbul’s metro network
The construction of a new underground railway in Istanbul finally began in 1992. For decades bureaucracy, fear of earthquakes, archeological issues and unresolved policy decisions prevented any steps. The first line (M2) between Taksim and 4th Levent went into service on September 16, 2000, 8.5 km long.
The dream of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid in 1861 of an underground connection between the European and Asian side was realized when the Marmaray link became operational in October 2013.
Mini cities around the metro
The expanding metro also creates new city centers within the city. From my time in Hong Kong I very well remember how each metro station became a mini city, both underground and above ground, with shopping malls, houses and offices; a trend to be noticed in Istanbul as well.
Clean, cheap and fast
Contributing to its success are the high frequencies (in general every 5-7 minutes one train, from 06.00 – 24.00), clean metro stations, air conditioned trains and the very simple basic tariff of 2.15 TL (70 euro cents), no matter how short or long the ride is.
And our Consulate? It is located 400 meter from Şişhane and 1 kilometer from Taksim. The famous Tünel-Taksim tram passes by in front of our office, but that one is for tourists only – too slow and no airco 😉
‘Istanbulkart’ is like the Dutch ‘OV Chip’ (but a bit more efficient)
When visiting Istanbul buy the ‘Istanbulkart’. It makes your travelling life very, very easy and cheap. Only checking in (so no annoying “please do not forget to check out”-messages), one standard price and a future in which one will be able to use the card for other purposes as well, like already possible with the equivalent ‘Octopuscard’ in Hong Kong.