In the previous article I described what Istanbul’s public transportation used to be like, and then stated that the Metrobüs was the single greatest transport improvement for Istanbul’s masses. The reason is connected to the road that the Metrobüs runs on, the E-5 (technically known as the D-100).
The E-5 freeway goes through or provides access to nearly all the main central areas of Istanbul, from Avcılar on the far west to Kartal and Pendik on the distant east. It’s the thoroughfare that uses the first Bosphorus bridge to connect the Thracian and Anatolian sides of the city.
The E-5’s route means that it provides transportation access to much of the most densely populated areas of İstanbul, especially neighborhoods like Avcılar, Esenler, Bağcılar, Güngören, Bahçelievler, and Zeytinburnu. Millions of people reside in those areas of the city. On the Anatolian side of the city, the E-5 runs between the “Gold Coast” neighborhoods on the Marmara shore from Moda to Dragos, and the inland working-class neighborhoods from Umraniye to Pendik. Recognizing the E-5’s importance to transportation, the first subway built on the Anatolian side of the city (opened in late 2012) mostly traces the E-5.
The Metrobüs line was built in several stages starting in 2006. First, the line from Avcılar was completed to Topkapı and opened in 2007. Then it was extended to Zincirlikuyu in 2008, and finally from Zincirlikuyu across the first Bosphorus bridge to Söğütlüçeşme, which is next to Fenerbahçe Sports Club’s stadium in Kadıköy, in 2009.
The Metrobüs runs on two wide lanes that were built down the middle of the E-5 freeway; fences on either side prevent normal traffic from veering into the Metrobüs lanes. Because the E-5 is so important to Istanbul transportation, the Metrobüs’s construction created immense traffic problems in addition to those that already existed. For many years I frequently traveled the E-5 and, during the Metrobüs’s construction, I cursed the idea along with everyone else.
But once the Metrobüs was opened, and I was suddenly able to travel from Mecidiyeköy to Atatürk Airport in a predictable 30-35 minutes (transferring to the light rail line at Şirinevler/Ataköy) instead of two hours, I quickly changed my mind. Simply, the Metrobüs revolutionized transportation in İstanbul. Traveling from İstanbul’s distant western suburbs to the city’s center suddenly became easy and fast.
The Metrobüs works like this: double-length buses travel in groups from stop-to-stop on the lines, and the gap between groups is not large; usually no more than 1-2 minutes. The idea is to provide a surface-based, dependable, fast version of a typical subway train. And in that the system has succeeded spectacularly. Whereas Istanbul commuters (again for emphasis, that means Istanbul’s working-classes and most of the middle-classes) used to spend grueling hours standing on dilapidated buses, now the commute time was dramatically reduced. The buses are more comfortable, operate better, have air conditioning, and operate 24 hours a day.
Now, anyone who does a Google search on the Istanbul Metrobüs will quickly find intense complaints about it. I’ll discuss those complaints in the next article.