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Happy with Metrobus, when there is no better alternative

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News | 7/22/2009 12:00:00 AM | SEVİM SONGÜN

Despite the frequent breakdowns of its buses and poor signaling of destinations and stations, the Metrobus system is still 'the one' for Istanbul residents. Many people who use the system agree it has deficiencies but believe it is the best transportation alternative so far

Istanbul residents’ views on the Metrobus system are akin to Winston Churchill’s opinion on democracy, expressed in a 1947 speech to the United Kingdom’s House of Commons: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Though Istanbul residents complain about the crowds and constant breakdowns in the Metrobus system, when it comes to cutting down travel times, they can see no better alternative.

Ezgi Çoban, 18, waiting at a Metrobus station Wednesday, said the bus once broke down on the road and that she and her brother had to help push it in order to continue on their way. But Çoban said she was still content to travel on the Metrobus system.

“It is practical, air-conditioned and, most importantly, faster than any other transportation on this route,” she said.

The Metrobus project, which gives regular buses their own lanes in the middle of motorways, has shortened the time spent on transportation in Istanbul. But the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, or İBB, has been criticized for the frequent breakdown of the Phileas bi-articulated buses, which were purchased from a Dutch company. The two dedicated one-way lanes for Metrobuses become blocked whenever one bus stops or breaks down.

A total of 50 buses out of 274 used in Metrobus lanes are Phileas-model vehicles. Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş said Wednesday that some people have criticized the municipality for not buying buses from Turkish firms, the Anatolia news agency reported. But he said that if they had done so, they would have to be operating 1,000 buses instead of 274, which would stop the lane’s operation. Topbaş said the Phileas buses carry more people than regular buses.

The malfunctioning of some Metrobuses does not disturb the residents of Istanbul too much, since they believe the traffic nightmare encountered on a long trip, such as from the Avcılar neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul to Söğütlüçeşme on the Anatolian side, could not be dealt with in a quicker or easier way. Despite their awareness of the Metrobus’ deficiencies, they seem grateful for the project.

Köksal Kocaoğlu, a passenger waiting in the Metrobus station in Edirnekapı on Wednesday, said once the Metrobus broke down right after crossing the bridge from the Anatolian side to the European side. “We got off the bus, and had to walk until the next station – Zincirlikuyu – at noontime under the sun,” he said. Despite this experience, Kocaoğlu said he was glad for the Metrobus system since most of the time it made his life easier.

[HH] Deficiencies still remain

Some deficiencies that have existed since the beginning of the Metrobus system still have not been addressed, including the lack of a destination map inside the buses and the lack of effective signs showing the stations’ names.

Serkan Güneş, 32, said when he took the Metrobus with his mother, he could not find a seat for her at the station. “I don’t understand why they did not put even one seat in the stations, there are old and unhealthy people,” he said. Still, Güneş’ general opinion about Metrobus was that it is “the best transportation in comparison to others on that way.”

Another passenger, Hasan Karaman, criticized the entrance and exit of the Zincirlikuyu Metrobus station for being too narrow. Karaman also said he was sick and had to go to the hospital every morning, but that he could not find a seat since the Metrobuses are too crowded in the mornings and evenings. There is also no place for people in wheelchairs at Zincirlikuyu station.  

Ercan Örnek, 28, said the Metrobus has made his life easier too, but added that there should be better controls on the buses to avoid the breakdowns. He also criticized the drivers who take more money than the tickets are worth.

The Metrobus project was first started between the Avcılar and Zincirlikuyu neighborhoods of Istanbul. It was later expanded to crosses a bridge over the Bosphorus and stretch to Söğütlüçeşme on the Anatolian side.

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