Will Istanbul’s new underwater highway just add traffic to a gridlocked city?

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Will Istanbul’s new underwater highway just add traffic to a gridlocked city?
What should be a 30-minute daily journey across Istanbul’s Bosphorus bridge ends up costing, during rush hour, an extra 125 hours of travel time over a year
Will Istanbul’s new underwater highway just add traffic to a gridlocked city?
What should be a 30-minute daily journey across Istanbul’s Bosphorus bridge ends up costing, during rush hour, an extra 125 hours of travel time over a year

It’s late on a steamy Saturday night and our taxi driver curses and rages at having found himself – and us, his passengers – in a trap. He weaves and winds down side streets and through tunnels, but, eventually, there’s nothing to be done: the bridge is the only route across.

From afar, it’s a wonderful view: Istanbul’s Bosphorus bridge, lit up and flashing against the dark of night. Giant cargo ships pass underneath, and pair of long, red-and-white lights stretch the length of the bridge towards the Asian shore. But up close, it’s a sight everyone dreads.

There are few cities where multi-hour traffic jams at 2am are the norm. But most nights this summer, Istanbul has been one of them. A trip across the bridge by the dolmuş mini-bus from Taksim Square to Kadikoy, on Istanbul’s Anatolian side – a distance of nine miles – can take just 15 minutes when traffic free. The trouble is, it almost never is.

This heaving city of 15 million residents has never been particularly easy to traverse. But new research by navigation company TomTom has found Istanbul to have the worst congestion of any city in the world. The statistics are startling: what should be a 30-minute daily journey ends up costing, during rush hour, an extra 125 hours of travel time over a year. That’s three entire working weeks spent sitting in traffic. []

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