Can the lessons learned from advanced bus systems in Istanbul apply to Mumbai?
Istanbul, a city of 13.4 million inhabitants, has an advanced bus system called the Metrobus, which transports as many people per day as an efficient light-rail or subway system. Istanbul’s system is so widely used that it is running over capacity, delivering a less-than-optimal quality of service to the people of Istanbul. On March 18th, Ali Dogan Salva and Serdar Oncel, integrated transport systems experts from EMBARQ Türkiye shared some feedback on the current difficulties in Istanbul with industry peers in Mumbai, India with the intent to draw some lessons from their experience to the benefit of Indian cities eager to improve the quality of urban transport for their populations. At the invitation of EMBARQ India and Studio X, they highlighted some of the major hurdles EMBARQ Türkiye helped to overcome in Istanbul.
What can Mumbai — and other cities around the globe — learn from the Istanbul experience?
Running into problems from the early days
The early days of Istanbul’s bus rapid transit, the advanced bus system chosen in the Turkey’s capital, were paved with roadblocks. The initial 18.6-kilometer (11.5-mile) corridor put in place within eight months by the Istanbul Electricity, Tramway and Tunnel General Management Company (IETT) in 2007 had inadequate infrastructure, poor and unsafe design elements, and defective maintenance, resulting in accessibility issues as well as accidents with injuries and fatalities.
Increased accessibility and safety among first improvements
After the difficult start of the project, IETT, as the bus operator, asked EMBARQ Türkiye to collaborate on improving the system. The collaboration quickly resolved to provide universal access to the stations and buses, a key issue for the bus operating company.
A second key topic was safety. A road safety inspection — identifying major areas of concern — recommended focused infrastructure retrofits at certain key bus stations. The retrofits are expected to improve the quality of service and reduce injuries. With support from EMBARQ Türkiye on the design and operation of Metrobus corridor, pedestrians will be prevented from entering bus lanes, improved vehicle crash barriers will be installed, and more walking and waiting areas will be put in place.
Istanbul’s advanced bus system today: 720,000 trips every day
Today, 400 buses run every 20 to 25 seconds (dispatched in groups of 4 buses with 20 to 25 seconds between each group), serving 720,000 passenger-trips each day. The city is constantly working on the system, performing regular maintenance to improve services. Some issues around capacity management and passenger safety remain, but solutions such as a high capacity station configuration are being worked on.
When asked the question: “Do you think a system of this nature would work in the context of Mumbai?” EMBARQ Türkiye expert Serdar Oncel said that it would work, provided that it would be a dedicated corridor, and that safety was kept in mind.