The ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) Istanbul mayoral candidate for the March 31 local elections, Binali Yıldırım, promised that he will transform Istanbul, the commercial capital of Turkey, into a brand and a center for culture and art.
Speaking in a press conference held yesterday, Yıldırım pointed out that: "Istanbul is an indispensable city for Turkey. For this reason, Istanbul should be brought forward with its culture and art. Istanbul has to be a brand city."
He added that Istanbul's economy produces one-third of the national income and is bigger than the economy of 140 countries, and 20 percent of country's population resides in Istanbul.
Commenting on his ideas for cultural projects, Yıldırım underscored that the city should be filled with design in addition to works on infrastructure. Accordingly, Yıldırım added that he will establish a design center in one of Istanbul's landmarks, Haydarpaşa Train Station, and the surrounding areas to help the city become a brand.
Built by the German-owned Anatolian-Baghdad Railways and designed by architects Otto Ritter and Helmuth Conu in the first decade of the 20th century as Europe's gateway to the east, the station served the Istanbul-Medina-Damascus railway line and later routes to Anatolia. The station had also served as the terminus for trains coming to the commercial capital from Anatolia.
Late Thursday, Yıldırım also touched on projects regarding infrastructure work in the city and revealed his two main focal points as improving the public transportation system and easing traffic, the most pressing problem in the city.
Stressing that the definite solution for the traffic problem is a well-equipped transportation system, Yıldırım highlighted that his aim is to increase railway systems to 518 kilometers in five years, leaving behind Tokyo, London and Paris, and ensuring that every resident can reach a subway station in a 10-minute walk.
"When the railway systems increased to 518 kilometers, the railway systems' share in all of the public transportation will become 48 percent. This increase will decrease the traffic on highways, enabling the traffic to flow," Yıldırım said.
Istanbul, Turkey's most populated city with more than 15 million inhabitants, has been notorious for its massive volume of traffic. It also has the largest number of motor vehicles compared to other cities in Turkey, at more than 4.1 million. However, thanks to a set of preventative measures and recent projects by Istanbul municipality, the city has seen a 17 percent drop in traffic jams.
The latest figures released by the municipality along with companies analyzing traffic data have indicated a 17 percent drop in traffic congestion in Turkey's most populated city, which often scores high in traffic congestion levels. The drop is linked to a series of measures, like smart transportation systems, new roads, new intersections and what the government dubbed "megaprojects" in road infrastructure, despite the growing population and rising number of motor vehicles in the city.
Further elaborating on projects regarding the transportation system and traffic, Yıldırım underscored that they will implement smart traffic management system projects, which will provide information to users on which road to use before leaving their homes.
Yıldırım also stated that they are planning to build another subway line under the straits to link both sides of Istanbul and identify key places for traffic to build alternatives. Pointing out that another reason for the traffic jams in the city is the lack of parking spots and vehicles left on the roads, Yıldırım vowed to create 1.75 million parking spaces.
In relation to illumination in the city, Yıldırım indicated that lighting in Istanbul at night is difficult to maintain due to high costs; however, he stressed that he will solve the problem by setting up solar panels and waste-to-energy systems to produce low-cost energy.
Yıldırım also promised to increase the 179 kilometers of bicycle paths to 1,086 kilometers initially, with the aim of increasing them even more in the future by building bicycle paths in green areas along the coast.