A ferry sails in the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 14, 2020. (Photo by Osman Orsal/Xinhua)
ISTANBUL, July 15 (Xinhua) -- A commuter ferry was about to sail from the crowded Karakoy district on the European side in Istanbul towards the Asian part when Emrullah Oguz hopped on it on Tuesday in the afternoon.
For just below one Turkish lira (0.15 U.S. dollars), Oguz crossed the continents, enjoying the beautiful view of the Bosphorus Strait, sipping his tea and feeding seagulls.
At the end of June, the Istanbul City Lines that belongs to the metropolitan municipality announced that the new price rate of the maritime lines would be five cents, almost free of charge.
The campaign would be valid between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., until the end of August.
"After I heard about it, I gave up using metro and buses as much as I can," Oguz told Xinhua.
Previously, the cost of hopping on a ferry operating in the long-distance lines was 5.50 liras and 3.50 for those in the short and middle-distance routes.
"We set out from the fact that Istanbul is a sea city, surrounded by the Marmara Sea in the south, the Black Sea in the north and the Bosphorus Strait in between," Sinem Dedetas, head of the Istanbul City Lines, told Xinhua.
While inspecting the maintenance works at a shipyard located in the Golden Horn, she said, "Our ultimate goal is to integrate the maritime lines with the land routes while making the sea transport more attractive for Istanbul residents."
The campaign seemed to have reached its initial target, as the use of ferries has increased by 49 percent in the first three days after the announcement of the discounted rate, the municipality data revealed.
In the long run, Dedetas and her teams plan to convert the entire transportation policies of the city, with a population of over 16 million, into a sea-oriented system.
For this, her crews have been conducting several simulations, carrying out an overall integration study to ease the intensity of the land traffic in a significant way.
To be able to reduce the jams on the three bridges spanning over the Bosphorus, they have also been designing a new vertical line for car-ferry services that will operate in between the continents.
"We also plan to make people's waiting times more enjoyable in the short run," Dedetas noted. "We will transform each pier into a museum that will combine the history and culture of Istanbul."
In Dedetas's view, ferries are also the most secure means of transportation in the city in terms of following the social distancing rule against the COVID-19 pandemic most conveniently.
"The threat of the pandemic is not over yet, and the psychology of all of us is not very good," Dedetas continued.
"People can enjoy the sea, sitting in open-air and find some morale free of the risks of contamination," she said, noting that the ferries are allowed to carry only half of their total capacities to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Due to the pandemic, the use of sea transportation dropped by 92 percent during March, April, and May this year.
"This is a very critical loss," she continued. "Now, we are observing a slight recovery. But still, we have a 60 percent missing in the number of passengers."
To be able to earn some money and reduce the financial burdens of commuters with such campaigns, the City Lines started to focus more on the activities at the shipyard, where the teams are conducting maintenance works.
"We recently began taking some tenders from the business world in the private sector and providing services for them at our shipyard," she added.
But Dedetas's job is still quite challenging, as according to the figures of the municipality, 49.2 percent of the Istanbul residents favored public buses in June, with only 3.2 percent of them used the maritime lines.