Istanbul is a city at a crossroads. Over the last half-century, Istanbul has undergone a tumultuous transition from an ancient metropolis to a sprawling megacity, growing from just over 1 million inhabitants in 1945 to an estimated 12 million today.
The number of cars on Istanbul’s streets has increased even faster than its population,growing eightfold since 1980, with 1.6 million automobiles now choking its roads. The onslaught continues, with 640 new cars registered in Istanbul each day.
Overwhelmed by this flood of people and vehicles, and mass transit slow to develop, Istanbul is now struggling to deal with congestion, air pollution, and the destruction of its cultural heritage at the hands of new overpasses and car infrastructure.
Stuck in Traffic
Zeynep and Ziynet are sisters who live in Sultanbeyli, a neighborhood of 1 million residents on the Asian side of Istanbul. Their home is situated next to the Trans-European Motorway, one of the biggest expressways in the city.
The sisters commute an average of 5.5 hours each day—7 hours if the traffic is particularly bad. The bus they take is often so crowded that its doors break.
Generally happy with their lives, their biggest resentment is toward private cars owners who harass the buses in traffic. “It’s 200 people versus one,” they say. When asked what they would do to fix Istanbul’s traffic, Zeynep says without
hesitation, “It seems to me it would help if the buses could have their own lane.”