Istanbul, traffic

Growing number of vehicles in Istanbul worries experts

In Istanbul, there is 1 vehicle for every 4 inhabitants, with consequences for health and traffic, which could become unbearable.

The constant increase in the number of vehicles in Istanbul worries experts, who fear that the growing number of cars in this Turkish metropolis of more than 15 million inhabitants will not only bring serious consequences for the health of its population, but will also lead to traffic management becoming practically impossible.

According to recent figures from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), in the last year a total of 247,415 new vehicles were added to Istanbul, so there are currently more than 4.6 million vehicles of all kinds circulating in the city: that is, approximately one vehicle for every four inhabitants of the city.

These figures, experts warn, are not only already having an impact on population’s health that will worsen in the future, but may lead to traffic management reaching a point where it becomes unsustainable, especially in the rush hours, in a city that currently already has the title of being the one with the worst traffic in the world. The fact is that, such a concentration of vehicles in a relatively small territory, presents challenges that can become impossible to solve.

40% of cars in Istanbul use diesel, more polluting

The largest number of vehicles registered in Istanbul are private cars (more than 3.1 million), with minibuses being the second most numerous type of vehicle (96,814). In addition, more than 40% of the city’s passenger cars use diesel fuel, and the current trend is for their number to increase, which increases the risks to human health due to the highly polluting particles generated by their combustion.

While pollution levels in Istanbul dropped significantly at the start of the pandemic due to lockdowns, the city has now returned to its previous levels of pollution: according to data from the Istanbul Metropolitan City Hall, nitrogen dioxide levels in the air of the Turkish metropolis increased last year by 5% compared to 2020.

In an attempt to alleviate the problems generated by the growing number of vehicles in Istanbul, the city’s metropolitan council has spent the last years carrying out projects to improve and expand the public transport network; those plans include the expansion of the metro lines, a service with up to 10,000 electric bicycles available for rent, or the long-awaited monorail, which is expected to connect the European and Asian parts of the city including the two international airports.