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Public anger as public transport fares hiked in Istanbul

Public transport fares in Türkiye’s largest city, Istanbul, have been increased as of Tuesday, sparking public outrage.

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Transport Coordination Centre (UKOME) announced an 18 percent increase in public transport fares and a 28 percent increase in taxi fares.

The minimum fare for the shortest trip in a taxi rose to 90 liras, or 3 U.S. dollars, and a full-fare ticket jumped from 15 liras to 17.70 liras.

Istanbul’s public transport system includes an extensive network of buses, trams, metro, funiculars, and ferries that span the Asian and European continents, serving more than 16 million residents.

A person who resides on the Asian side and goes to work on the European side can change about four vehicles every day, including metro and ferries.

“When taking the size of this megapolis into consideration, the hikes significate a large hole in the budget,” said Idris Tunc, a specialist who lives in the Kadikoy district on the Asian side.

Tunc takes the bus twice to work to the European side every day and the ferry twice to cross the Bosphorus Strait, which flows between the Asian and European sides of the city.

“With the recent increases, I now pay 74 liras per day for transport within the city. Even if I don’t go anywhere on the weekend, my monthly traveling costs would have reached 1,200 liras,” he told Xinhua.

While the fare increase seemed too much for the passengers, it neither pleased the taxi drivers, who deemed the increase too little.

A group of taxi drivers on Tuesday tried to enter the UKOME headquarters and attacked the building with stones. Police intervened and arrested at least two drivers, according to press reports.

The taxi drivers expected the fare increase to be at least 120 liras for the shortest distance to cover their rising expenses, including diesel and petrol.

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute’s data, Istanbul became the country’s most expensive city in 2023. The annual inflation for retail prices reached 74.88 percent year-on-year in 2023, the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce recently reported.

“When all this is combined, life in Istanbul is becoming increasingly difficult for the people,” another resident, Sami Aygun, told Xinhua.

Aygun, a doorman of a residential building in Besiktas, has been working for a minimum wage.

To alleviate the burden of the rising cost of living, the government raised the minimum wage by 49 percent to 17,002 liras, starting the first day of 2024.

“Unfortunately, the increase in our minimum wage does not cover our expenses,” he stated, recalling that only in August last year were public transport fares increased dramatically by 51.52 percent.

Türkiye has long been struggling against rising living costs, with persistently high inflation rising to 64.77 percent in 2023, according to official data released in December last year. ■

Famagusta Gazette