Fuelled by the desire for a better quality of life (whether due to poverty, rural unemployment, conflict), people are flooding into urban areas at an unprecedented rate. Rapid urbanization may help lift standards of living, but it also puts a tremendous strain on city services, such as housing, education, health care and transportation.
One of the fastest growing cities in the world with a population of 14 million, Istanbul was not created with modern transport in mind, and its infrastructure is unable to keep up with the demands of a growing population, estimated to reach an unsustainable 20-22 million by 2020. This megacity is the third most congested, after Mexico and Bangkok, with a 50% increase in travel times when compared to free flow traffic (TomTom’s 2016 Traffic Index).
The causes of traffic congestion in Istanbul are numerous and include poorly planned roadways and transportation systems, poorly timed traffic signals, insufficient traffic system coordination, traffic accidents, special events (ex: concerts, festivals), and the unexploited use of Istanbul’s seaways and sea transportation.
According to Prof. Dr. Murat Çelik of Istanbul Technical University, traffic congestion costs Istanbul more than 3 billion Turkish Liras per year due to loss of labour and excess fuel consumption, just about equal to Turkey’s GDP.
Reducing traffic congestion would address various targets set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to improve air quality, a major health problem in most megacities.