Istanbul, the most populous city in Turkey, is a busy place. Home to roughly 14 million residents, and one of the fastest-growing metropolitan economies in the world, it’s a European Capital of Culture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a destination for more than 12 million foreign visitors each year. It’s also the only places in the world where you can cross from one continent to another by simply driving across a bridge.
But you might think twice before directing your car to one of the bridges that cross the Bosphorous straight, linking Asia and Europe, because Istanbul is also known for something else – traffic jams. It can take hours to get across one of the city’s bridges, especially during rush hour, but most drivers will tell you that being in a car in Istanbul at just about any time of day usually means frustratingly long delays.
Leaving traffic delays behind: Istanbulkart
Bumper-to-bumper traffic may be one of the reasons why public transport is on the rise. Another reason is the Istanbulkart, a transport-payment card introduced in 2009. More than 15 million Istanbulkart cards have been sold to date, and there are more than 10 million Instanbulkarts currently active in the field.
Similar to the well-known automatic-fare cards used in other cities, such as London’s Oyster card and San Francisco’s Clipper card, the Istanbulkart offers lots of options for getting around without a car. It works throughout the city’s complex public-transport system, which includes everything from public buses, trains, and trams, to subway lines, ferries, and funiculars, and encourages transfers with discounted fares. A single metro ride, for example, is just 0.3€ with an Istanbulkart, but costs three times as much if you pay with cash or a token.
More than a transport card
The Istanbulkart can also be used to pay for parking, so you can drive part of the way and then transfer to public transport for the rest of your trip, and even pays for public restrooms in the metro system. After a stressful day at work you could also just jump off the bus and get access to the public beach with your Istanbulkart, just tap and relax along the city’s extensive shoreline before you finish your trip home.
Implemented and managed by the Turkish system integrator Belbim, the Istanbulkart system continues to expand. For example, it covers trips to the Prince Islands, which are about 20 km from the city proper, and a popular day trip for residents and tourists.
University students have their own special Istanbulkart being University ID and public transport card in one to access the University and the whole portfolio of public transport from ferry to subway.
The Istanbulkart is based on MIFARE DESFire, the leading industry standard for contactless and dual-interface smartcard schemes. MIFARE DESFire uses a highly secure, microcontroller-based format that’s certified with Common Criteria EAL4+ on the hardware and software implementations, so it’s a safe choice for all kinds of transactions, especially purchases and payments.
A better way to go
Traffic jams may be a fact of life in Istanbul, but the Instabulkart is making it faster, cheaper, and less stressful for many in Istanbul to get around. Commuters can work or relax while they make their way to and from work, knowing that they’ll be on time. And, as with anyone who leaves the car at home, they can be happy about the fact that they’re helping to ease congestion, reduce pollution, and make the city a little more livable for everyone.
More to come
The Istanbulkart is continously adding applications. Since a variety of different applications and partners are available in the MIFARE ecosystem it is easy to ad new applications. Bikesharing will be next in a row of new applications that will be incorporated into istanbulkart. Stay tuned for more to come.
Join the conversation
Have you driven in Istanbul? What was it like? And what about the city’s public-transport system? Have you used it, or the Istanbulkart? What other applications might be useful to add to the Istanbulkart system?
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