Istanbul: More money for parking and bike lanes, bans for school buses and private corporate shuttles

Istanbul Turkey man on a bicycle

As part of a broader plan to grow the nation’s economy, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu introduced a proposal for congestion pricing and restrictions on school buses and private shuttle buses in Istanbul, along with plans to encourage bicycle use through the expansion of bike facilitie. The new transport plan also dedicates transit revenue for park-and-ride lots in the periphery.

With a car ownership rate of 150 cars per 1,000 residents in Turkey, private cars make up 30% of traffic in perpetually congested Istanbul. Public buses and minibuses make up a whopping 40% of traffic, while private employee shuttles and school buses (labeled “Okul Tasiti” in the photo above) are another 30% of vehicular trips.

To reduce congestion in the city center as part of the national plan to improve economic output, Davutoğlu’s government proposes these steps:

  • Congestion pricing for private automobiles.
  • Heavy restrictions on the 50,000 private employee shuttle buses when work locations are near public transit hubs and stations. Shuttles operating far from transit lines will be exempt from these restrictions.
  • Similar restrictions for school buses and measures to encourage public transportation use for school children. Similar to the shuttle restrictions, school buses operating far from transit lines are exempt from this ban.
  • Compulsory construction of park-and-ride lots near large transit stations in the suburbs.
  • Parking fees included in your train fare to encourage driving to the station to discourage driving into the city.
  • A massive expansion of bike lanes and bike paths “located as far as possible from roads used by other vehicles.”
  • Parking lots for bicycles.
  • Provision to bring bicycles on board buses, trains and subways.

Opposition leaders criticize this plan, with this newspaper even framing the issue as new restrictions on daily life to punish the common man.

“He or she will be forced to pay a specific amount of money every day. In other words, people with money will have the privilege to go anywhere with their cars in İstanbul, while others will be deprived of this,” [says Turkish journalist Gülten Üstündağ of the congestion fee]. “This is not fair at all.”

This report hints that citizens may protest these transportation rules with a narrative suggesting last year’s anti-government “Occupy”-style protests were motivated by heavy-handed efforts to pedestrianize Istanbul’s central urban plaza.

Istanbul’s Taksim neighborhood, which hit headlines in 2013 with massive anti-government protests, is the home of the iconic Taksim Square. The government had earlier pedestrianized a large area around the square through a controversial plan that had triggered the protests.

I don’t have a good handle on Istanbul’s transportation picture, but overall it seems somebody in the government sees that the status quo of encouraging and building for private automobile use limits economic opportunity for everybody involved, from the worker who spends half a day sitting in traffic, all the way to the investor who understands the constraints imposed by geography on capital.

Besides the backlash in Istanbul, I wonder about the wisdom of expanding low cost park-and-ride lots at transit facilities in the periphery. As Human Transit points out in his explanation on the math of park and ride, subsidized parking like this encourages more motor vehicle use and depresses land values and development near the transit center.

Including your parking fee in your train ticket is a horrible idea. People who walk, bike, or share a ride to the transit center pay the same price as those who store their cars at the transit center all day.

This is of some local interest because corporate employee shuttles are in issue in the San Francisco Bay Area, where detractors claim the large private shuttles take up road space better utilized by public transportation even while gentrifying large portions of San Francisco. Partially in response to the criticism and to improve some of our regional public transportation, several corporate sponsors joined a recently created Caltrain Commuter Coalition aka “C3.” Google has even bought into Caltrain’s GoPass program, in which Google pays a heavily discounted fee to Caltrain for an annual pass for all employees at a specific location.

Over the past decade, incidentally, Caltrain ridership has more than doubled, even as Caltrain has hiked the cost of parking with very little increase in parking capacity at Caltrain owned lots near train stations.

Read more about Turkey’s plans to reduce central city traffic at Daily Sabah: New plan to remove shuttle buses, encourage bicycle use.

One Comment

  1. Anyone in the United States or Canada only has to look at any major shopping mall or big money sports stadium to see what colossal waste of space and bad land use policy parking lots are.

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