Istanbul has one of world’s lowest taxi densities, says municipality

Istanbul has one of the lowest cab densities in the world with just one taxi per 1,000 inhabitants, the Istanbul Municipality Planning Agency (IPA) said. Although the city's population has more than doubled since the 1990s, the number of taxis remained constant over the decades, IPA Chair Resul Emrah Şahan said.

Eren Topuz / DUVAR

The number of taxis in Istanbul is so low that each driver is expected to serve 1,000 passengers, the municipal Istanbul Planning Agency (IPA) said. 

The number of taxis in Istanbul has been at the center of a debate over the past weeks as the municipality presented a proposal for 1,000 new cars to be put in traffic in the metropolis. 

The proposal of the municipality, run by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), was turned down by the Taxi Owners Trade Chamber (İTEO) whose chair Eyüp Aksu claimed that the number of cabs in the city was sufficient. 

The current oversaturation of demand in Istanbul's taxi market is a result of the number of cars remaining constant over the decades as the city's population more than doubled, IPA Chair Resul Emrah Şahan said.

"Istanbul's population in the '90s was 7.5 million, and the number of cabs was 17,395. It's been 30 years. The city's population surpassed 16 million, but the number of cabs didn't change," Şahan noted.

Other metropolises across the globe have drastically different ratios of cab to passenger, the chairman said, noting that New York City offers 13,587 taxis to 8.4 million residents, Buenos Aires has 38,000 taxis per 15.1 million people and Hong Kong is home to some 18,163 cabs for 7.5 million locals.

"Cities with nearly half of Istanbul's population have more cabs. The need to increase the number of taxis in a city like Istanbul and to bring it up to global standards is unavoidable," Şahan said. 

Taxi drivers' aversion to the municipality's plans to increase the number of cabs in the market is based on their current ability to choose the most profitable passengers among such large demand, Şahan added.

Owners of cab licenses profit off of the excess of demand over supply, and are hindering the elected local government from doing their job thanks to the political backing they have, Şahan said. 

Noting that cabs are unique in offering door-to-door services unlike public transportation, the chairman said that the increase in the number of cabs was in fact a security concern for Istanbulites.