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Bus Rapid Transit System in Istanbul: A Success Story or Flawed Planning Decision?

Babalık, Ela
Cengiz, Elif Can
There is a growing tendency in cities around the world to invest in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in an attempt to improve the capacity and quality of public transport services. The appeal of BRTs is based on their ability to combine the service level of rail transit systems with the flexibility of buses at relatively lower investment costs, and this was the motivation behind the opening of such a system in the Turkish city of Istanbul in 2007. This system has attracted mixed opinions as to its performance, as while passenger ridership figures are extremely high, proving the effectiveness of the system, there is an argument that the corridor should have been developed with rail technology, and that the BRT is failing to meet the demand. The paper presents a comprehensive analysis of this system, assessing its planning and performance through a comparative analysis of a number of BRTs in the world and Istanbul's metro and tram systems. The analysis confirms the success of the system in terms of passenger statistics, but also highlights a number of problems in certain planning decisions that should be addressed, thus taking the discussion beyond a simplified comparison of bus and rail technologies.