Izmir, Turkey


  • ESHOT is the municipal-owned operator of the bus network in Izmir and its surrounding service area. It operates a fleet of 1,560 buses, including 410 from its associate Izulas.
  • The bus network forms part of an integrated transport system including Metro, Rail, Ferry, and local paratransit. Integration has been developed since 2000, and suburban rail was included in 2010.
  • The Izmir Metropolitan Transport Co-ordination Centre was established in 2006 for the planning, co-ordination and determination of routes; ESHOT is represented on this body through its General Manager.
  • Originally the company operated a zonal fares structure with pre-printed paper tickets, but passenger and operator fraud were widespread
  • The company introduced electronic fare collection and smart-card ticketing in 1999, and alternative ticketing formats were wholly eliminated by 2009.
  • Introduction of through-ticketing, enabled by the smart-cards, allowed for modal integration and the redesign of the urban passenger service network based on planned interchange.
  • Progressive elimination of fraud, as the smart-card applications developed, increased the company’s cashflow to the extent that a major fleet investment program could be self-funded.
  • The ticket validators have provided the backbone of the on-bus intelligent network for additional ITS applications including automatic vehicle location and management, and real-time passenger information.

Scope of the Case Study

This case study deals with the Fare Collection System implemented at ESHOT, the municipal bus operator in the metropolitan area of Izmir. It also covers the integration of that system with the metro, rail or ferry operators, and the methodology applied for that purpose.

Due to the central role of the e-ticket on-bus validators in the ITS implemented at ESHOT, reference is made to the ITS applications which this serves. However the ITS aspects and related functional / technical requirements are covered in the corresponding Case Study in the ITS Toolkit.


Izmir is Turkey’s third largest city (after Istanbul and Ankara) and has developed over the past 3,500 years around the Gulf of Izmir off the Aegean Sea. It now comprises 11 metropolitan districts brought together under unitary authority, and a further 10 districts are wholly or partially included in the new municipal arrangements.

Izmir Metropolitan Municipality had a population of some 3.35 million in 2010, with the peri-urban area adding a further 0.6 million. Population increase in the municipality over the past decade has been some 50%, primarily because of recent boundary changes but also because of inward migration and natural growth.

Public transport in Izmir consists of the following: 

  • Urban bus services, operated by ESHOT and Izulas, with 1,560 vehicles
  • Urban ferry services, operated by Izdeniz; 24 ferries, using 8 quays
  • Metro rail, operated by Izmir Metrosu; 1 line, launched in 2000
  • Suburban commuter rail, operated by IzBan; 2 lines, launched in 2010
  • Peri-urban/hinterland bus services, operated by ESHOT
  • Hinterland paratransit services, operated by dolmus

Urban bus is the main means of public transport in the municipality, providing citywide coverage and carrying 86.5% of all passengers in 2010; metro carried 9.5% of passengers, ferries 3%, and suburban rail 1% (part year).

No data were made available on public transport mode share, although this varies greatly across the metropolitan area. Public transport has a relatively high modal share for trips entering the central area during the peak hours (>50% on some corridors). This quickly tapers off with distance from the centre. Private car is the dominant mode outside the center, and paratransit dolmus (minibuses and shared taxis) provide most of the public transport for suburban and peripheral travel. Cycling and walking have low mode shares, despite being favored in policy terms. Taxis are deregulated, plentiful, and relatively expensive (fuel is heavily taxed), and have a low share of the total travel market.

Public transport developments in recent years have focused on the rail modes, and this is planned to continue under the Egeray program launched in 2006. The metro line is currently being extended at both ends, and new lines are planned. Suburban rail services were launched in 2010, and new lines will be added through to 2017. Four new light-rail tram lines are also included in the program.

However there has also been considerable renovation and expansion of the ESHOT bus fleet in recent years, introducing both low-floor and articulated buses and adding air-conditioning to nearly half of the vehicles. No plans for bus-based rapid transit (BRT) were advised, though.

The primary means of private travel demand management is parking control, with strongest enforcement in the central areas and in suburban hubs. This is primarily based on dissuasive pricing mechanisms, and to a lesser extent on quantity control. However observation suggests that this is not wholly effective.

Regulatory Framework

Regulation of Passenger Transport

A major transformation of public transport in Izmir commenced in 2000, with the launch of the Integration project. This brought together the new metro line, the ferry operations (taken into municipal ownership at that time), and the bus network. This integration was supported by infrastructure investment in new transport hubs at the points of interchange.

A Transport Co-ordination Centre (UKOME) was established within the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality for this purpose, with its powers formalized by Regulation in 2005; UKOME reports directly to the Mayor. The centre covers all modes of public transport, as well as car parking, within the municipality. This institutional reform has now been replicated across Turkey under Articles gazetted in 2006.

Basis of Service / Route Award

UKOME provides the strategic direction for the development of an integrated passenger transport network, including the Egeray program of rail-based transit systems. ESHOT is required to integrate its service offer with other modes, and major investments in interchange facilities have been made in recent years.

The process of integration has been facilitated by a tariff structure that now allows unlimited interchange within a 90-minute period that is enabled through the smart-card e-ticketing system. This development is reported in greater detail below.

Within these constraints, ESHOT holds a monopoly for bus-based transit in the urban area and has the freedom to develop and adapt its service offer. However its services in the hinterland of the city are sparse, and local passenger transport there is largely provided by private paratransit dolmus (minibuses and shared-taxis).

Permits or Contracts

ESHOT has a Public Service Obligation (PSO) to carry students and teachers at discounted fares, and the disabled and pensioners for free.

As Greater Izmir has 7 universities (with another 2 planned), the numbers qualifying for discounted fares is very considerable. In the academic year 2010-11, some 250,000 student cards had been issued and a further 17,500 teacher cards.

There are also some 114,000 privilege (free-travel) cards in issue, of which the main categories are: disabled, 55,000; disabled helpers, 6,000; pensioners over 60 years, 49,500; and pensioners over 65, 2,500. Certain categories of municipal service staff are also entitled to free travel when on duty, and 600 anonymous cards have been issued that must be supported by official identification.

Allocation of Revenue and Cost Risks

Revenue and Cost risks theoretically lie with ESHOT, which is required to operate commercially against budgets approved by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality. However the financial losses arising are covered by the Municipality, and are calculated to be less than the lost value of the services provided under Public Service Obligation.

Tariffs are set by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, based on advice from UKOME. In mid-2011, the standard fare in the urban area was TRY 1.70 (USD 1.10) and the discounted fare TRY 0.90 (USD 0.58). This covers any direct or interchange journey completed within 90 minutes of the first boarding.

However the revenue allocation for passenger journeys involving interchange between ESHOT and other modes is formulaic, derived from agreements negotiated between the operators. This formula allocates revenues in favor of the mode first boarded, but may be expected to equalize over the typical daily commute where journeys are reversed.

It should be noted that over 25% of ESHOT passengers also use another transport mode to complete their journey, and hence the sums involved are significant. The revenue allocations are managed within the clearing-house function of the e-ticketing system integrator, and a reconciliation is made every midnight.

Institutional Framework

Public Transport Operators

ESHOT was first formed in 1943 to take the Izmir Tram and Electric Company into municipal ownership; trolleybuses were added to the system in 1945. That year, ESHOT also took over the Izmir Coal Gas Company, and added the Izmir Water Company in 1947 to form an integrated utility enterprise. The ESHOT acronym was then formed from the Turkish for electricity, water, coal-gas, bus, and trolleybus.

However the tramways were in decline even when ESHOT was formed, and the system gradually contracted until the last line ceased operation in the early 1960s; trolleybuses continued in service until 1992, though. In 1982 the electricity operations of ESHOT were nationalized, and a new Izmir Water Company was formed in 1987. In 1994 the coal-gas plant was closed, leaving ESHOT purely as a bus company but retaining its original name.

ESHOT operations incorporate an associate company, Izulas, whose fleet largely comprises minibuses and smaller vehicles more appropriate for operation in historic areas of the city where highway standards preclude large buses. Izulas is still a private company, but fully integrated into the ESHOT systems and sharing several of its depots.

Izmir Metro is the undertaking established for the development and operation of the underground rail network in Izmir. Construction commenced in 1995, and was completed some four years later. The system came into public service in May 2000. Ownership is 60% at the national level and 40% at the municipal level.

The initial line of 11.6km runs along the southern shore of the gulf and through the city centre, and has 10 stations. This line is currently being extended at both ends, and branch extensions are also planned when that program is completed.

Izdeniz is the company formed in 2000 when the ferry services in the Gulf of Izmir were taken into municipal ownership as part of the Integration project. However it retains the structure of a private company, and hasn’t yet received the investment applied to other modes.

24 ferries shuttle between 8 quays positioned around the gulf in the main urban area, and additional services are provided to points further out in the gulf during the summer months for the tourist and excursion markets. All ferry terminals are equipped with turnstiles for smart-card validation, and the traditional jeton payment was discontinued in 2011.

IzBan is the company formed in 2006 for the development and operation of a suburban commuter rail network in Izmir under the Egeray program. It is jointly owned by Turkish State Railways and Izmir Metropolitan Municipality. It is the only such joint-venture entered into by the railway.

Operations commenced in 2010 with lines running south and north-west from the city centre and totaling 80km with 31 stations. Apart from the infrastructure upgrade of existing track alignments, including 2 new tunnels, grade separation, and 5 new stations, 15 new bus terminals were built for integration with ESHOT bus services. All stations were also fitted with turnstiles for incorporation within the city-wide smart-card e-ticketing system.

Local Authorities

The city of Izmir is currently composed of eleven metropolitan districts: Balcova, Bayrakli, Bornova, Buca, Cigli, Gaziemir, Guzelbahce, Karabaglar, Karsiyaka, Konak and Nardilere. Each of these was a former district center absorbed into the expanding metropolis, with Konak district corresponding to historic Izmir and still forming the core of the city.

A further 10 surrounding districts fall under the remit of the Mayor of Izmir in respect of certain administrative functions, including passenger transport. For that purpose, though, the service area is defined as a 50km radius from the city centre and not strictly by district boundaries.

ESHOT Structure

ESHOT operates as five divisions in the urban area, with two minor sub-divisions in the hinterland of the city. The numbers of routes operated by each division, and the vehicles allocated to each are as follow:














































note: Vehicles include the ancillary fleet; service buses total 1,561.

The large majority of the fleet are standard-length single-deck buses, but 200 articulated buses were introduced from 2008 and 42 new mini-buses added to the Izulas fleet in the same year. 744 of the buses are now air-conditioned (including retro-fits), and 444 have low floors and step-less entry equipped for wheel-chair access.

The major investment program from 2007 onwards has increased the fleet from 1,120 to 1,560 buses, and reduced its average age to 8.91 years. 90% technical availability is achieved, now providing 1,400 buses for daily operation.

ESHOT operates from twelve depots, of varying sizes, most of which are located in the city and inner suburbs; five of these depots have full workshop facilities.

Key daily metrics for ESHOT operational performance are:

Fleet operated 1,400

Departures 11,000

Kilometers 320,000

Passengers 1.3 million

Kilometers/bus 230

Passengers/bus 930

ESHOT had 3,760 staff in 2009, of whom 2,768 were drivers. This is a ratio of 2.7 staff per operating bus.

Implementation of Electronic Fare Collection at ESHOT

Motivations to implement Electronic Fare Collection

The principal motivations to implement Electronic Fare Collection at ESHOT have been to:

  • Develop a secure and effective revenue collection system covering standard and concessionary travel
  • Eliminate conventional paper tickets, with their associated production, distribution and security costs
  • Generate additional free cashflow through fraud elimination so as to fund a major fleet investment program
  • Enable modal and service integration through minimizing personal costs of interchange
  • Recast the service network, taking advantage of fares integration, so as to improve service quality and reduce the cost of service provision
  • Enable unlimited travel for 90 minutes within the metropolitan area for a single fare
  • Provide the technical backbone of the subsequent ITS applications

Overview of Electronic Fare Collection deployment at ESHOT

Electronic fare collection at ESHOT has been deployed, extended and enhanced over a decade, increasing its applications across all categories of user until traditional cash payments and periodic passes had been eliminated.

The deployment path of electronic fare collection systems at ESHOT is summarized as follows:

1999 Introduction of smart-card e-ticketing on pilot basis

2004 Completion of e-ticketing roll-out for all travel on ESHOT

2007 Introduction of transferable tickets across modes on pilot basis

2008 Completion of transferable tickets across all modes

2008 Introduction of memory-card tickets for casual travelers

2009 Abolition of on-board payment, and driver authorization

The smart-card e-ticketing system was the first ITS system at ESHOT, and was originally intended as a stand-alone application. However the on-vehicle validator that was developed by the local equipment supplier had embedded capabilities for automatic vehicle location, as this had been required for another city introducing e-ticketing at the same time.

The validator was also equipped with a communications capability, initially to receive ‘black-lists’ of invalid smart-cards, and this could be adapted to AVL, RTPI, and surveillance applications. The e-ticketing validator has therefore provided the data center and intelligent hub for all subsequent ITS applications at ESHOT.

Electronic Fare Collection Applications at ESHOT


Prior to the introduction of electronic fare collection in ESHOT, the company had employed conventional pre-printed paper tickets. These had only limited security features, through serial numbering and some complexity of design, to prevent casual duplication.

The company employed a zonal fare structure centered on Konak, with 5 concentric rings covering the core metropolitan area. This structure was supplemented by distance-related fares for peri-urban services into the surrounding hinterland.

However the fare collection system incorporated no provision for through-ticketing between ESHOT services – or for inter-modal journeys involving other service providers. This imposed a high cost of interchange (transfer) on passengers, and resulted in pressure on the company to provide as many direct services as practicable between main travel demand origins and destinations.

These direct services were then inevitably operated at extended headways that increased average passenger waiting times. Further, the long routes involved tended to be unreliable in operation because of traffic congestion. Both of these effects impacted adversely on service quality, and customer satisfaction.

The company had become increasingly aware that its traditional ticketing system was vulnerable to fraud both through ticket forgery and over-riding. Further the lack of ticket integration between transport services had adverse impacts both on the passenger and the company. This acted as a barrier to the development of an integrated passenger transport system for the metropolis.

Introduction of Electronic Fare Collection

Electronic ticketing was first introduced to Izmir in March 1999, with the Akilli Kart. This employed Korean technology for the contactless smart-card and validator, and a Motorola communications system. At this stage, this was a standalone application designed to improve revenue integrity and protect against fraud.

However the system integrator contracted by ESHOT for this program found that working with foreign suppliers was problematic, and it was agreed that this should be replaced by locally designed and manufactured hardware. This was applicable not only to Izmir, but to 3 other cities in Turkey with which the system integrator was working at that time.

The benefit of this local development was that the equipment was designed for a range of applications identified by the different cities, and was compatible with all industry-standard smart-cards. The supplier claims a world first for the integration of Automated Fare Collection and Vehicle Tracking Systems in a single unit as a result. Communications were also migrated onto GPRS, removing dependency on a dedicated wireless network.

The business model of the system supplier is based on identifying customer needs and continuous process development in meeting them. As such, it has succeeded in winning two additional supply contract terms since its initial award.

Characteristics of the electronic fare collection system

The electronic fare collection system in Izmir – now known as KentKart (CityCard in Turkish) – was designed with system security and the prevention of fraud as its top priority. However there are also advantages to passengers in faster boarding and cash-free transactions. These were supplemented by discounts for card users, and other marketing campaigns, designed to encourage the take-up of smart card usage.

The system employs contactless smart cards that are presented to a validator positioned alongside the driver in the bus entry passage. This device can read information from the smart card, identify card validity, deduct the travel fare from the card, and store the transaction data for transfer to the system server when needed.

The driver has a control panel on his dashboard that is connected to the ticket validator. This is used for setting tariff parameters, and other system management functions, and acts as a bi-directional communication tool between the vehicle and operation center.

The time involved in each fare transaction is some 500 milliseconds, primarily so as to enable cross-checking against the database of known fraudulent tickets. Despite this, boarding time is still only 1.5 seconds per passenger on average, enabling an 180 passenger articulated bus to be fully loaded inside 3 minutes. The black-list of fraudulent tickets is routinely updated every 30 minutes during the transmission of transaction data to the control center.

Smart cards can be purchased from a network of kiosks across Izmir, sometimes integrated with other retail activities but dedicated outlets are provided at the main transport hubs. The card is entered into the electronic fare collection system at the point of sale, and loaded with the travel value specified by the passenger. The kiosks also have rechargers to load e-money to the smart-card, providing a receipt for the transaction.

In Izmir, there are some 2 million fare transactions daily. These are processed through a clearing house that consolidates the fare collection and card deduction data from the service operator and card management systems respectively, and reconciles this every midnight. This system also now enables the allocation of revenues for multi-modal journeys between their respective operators.

Elimination of conventional paper tickets

In the initial electronic fare collection application conventional paper tickets retained validity, and a special card allocated to each driver was used to enter the travel details for passengers who didn’t hold a smart-card. This card has been retained and adapted for other applications, even though it is no longer needed for the fare collection system after all driver involvement in that process ceased in September 2009.

By 2004, only an estimated 10% of passengers were still using paper tickets with the majority having accepted the transition to electronic fare collection. However it had been identified that these residual travelers were involved in a disproportionate amount of fraud, and that the conventional ticketing system should be discontinued as a result.

The initial approach was to authorize on-board cash collection of fares for casual travel, and that system was introduced in July 2004. The immediate impact was an increase in paid ridership of 15% year on year, without any corresponding increase in direct operating costs and a reduction in ticketing costs.

However fraud was not prevented by this move, but rather the potential transferred to the driver who was now handling cash without an adequate control process to ensure that appropriate system entries were made. Evidence was provided by on-board video surveillance of this fraud emerging, but surveillance and disciplinary action were costly.

The subsequent approach, introduced in October 2008, was the introduction of a memory-card ticket for casual travelers that was made available in 3- and 5-trip versions at a small premium to the standard fare to cover the cost of production. These tickets are disposable cards with an embedded chip and surrounding antenna that can be read by the validator, and have their stored value decremented.

Some 18,000 trips are now made each day using the memory-card tickets, and thus enable mobility for visitors to the city and casual travelers within it. However they don’t enable through-ticketing and transfer between modes, and so more complex journeys still justify the acquisition of a smart-card to reduce the total cost of travel.

Development of integrated ticketing

In February 2007 a pilot application for transferable tickets between modes was launched initially involving ferries, metro, and 100 buses on 52 routes that provided their feeder services. This offered a 50% discount on a second boarding made within 60 minutes of the first, and hence required the timed transactions to be written to and read from the smart-card.

This transfer capability was extended to a 90 minute validity in January 2008, and coverage was increased to all bus services so as to enable integration within the bus mode as well as for intermodal travel. However this didn’t result in the anticipated change in travel patterns, and it was recognized that the full benefits of integration were not being realized.

Accordingly the discount for any subsequent boarding increased to 100% in August 2008. In effect, this has introduced a flat-fare structure for passenger transport across Greater Izmir for all holders of smart-cards. This has resulted in significant diversion from bus services to the rail-based modes, and allowed ESHOT to modify its service network accordingly.

Because of this fare structure, ESHOT buses are only fitted with ticket validators at the entrance door and there is no need to revalidate at exit. Although not needed for the fares validation, the transaction records the location of the bus at that time using the automatic vehicle location capability of the validator. 

As a result, travel path data availability gathered from ticketing transactions is only partial in that any points of interchange are captured but not the point of final alighting. Nevertheless this can be determined for regular commuting journeys from the point of first boarding for the reverse trip.

ESHOT has used the travel path data generated from the ticketing transactions, and the freedom provided by the elimination of interchange-costs from the new fare structure, to recast its route network. This has now been directed towards planned interchange both with the rail modes and ferries, and within the bus mode itself using purpose-built hubs. As a result passenger numbers have been significantly increased, and long and unreliable routes have also been reduced to the benefit of service quality.

Reduction of concessionary-travel fraud

As noted above, one of the primary motivations behind the original introduction of electronic fare collection was reduction in the high levels of ticketing fraud that had been identified with the previous system. However this fraud was not just confined to the paper tickets, but was also apparent in the concessionary travel passes.

Some 40% of all passengers in Izmir benefit from some form of concession, with two-thirds of these being students and teachers who qualify for discounted fares (just over half the standard fare) and one-third being pensioners and the disabled who qualify for free travel.

The greatest fraud problem was identified with student passes, particularly their retention by those no longer qualifying once they had completed their courses. This was tackled in two ways, firstly by ‘personalizing’ the concessionary smart-cards with a photograph of the beneficiary so as to enable the driver to make a visual check as to whether the user was the card holder, and secondly by integrating the data-bases of card authorization and travel validation so as to blacklist any that were being used improperly.

Capital Costs of the Electronic Fare Collection system

This data is not in the public domain and has not been made available.

Operating Costs of the Electronic Fare Collection system

The only operating cost that was directly attributed to the electronic fare collection system was the communication cost between the vehicle and its operating base. This is made by conventional mobile telephony (GSM) and is shared with the polling cost of the vehicle tracking system integrated into the ticket validator. The cost was reported as being some €20 per bus per month.

Benefits arising from the Electronic Fare Collection systems at ESHOT

Benefits of the Electronic Fare Collection system have not been quantified, and it does not appear that it was felt necessary to do so in that the benefits are regarded as self-evident.

For the fare collection system, the main benefits reported are:

  • Improved revenue generation through reduction of fraud and peculation
  • Elimination of cash handling, security and administration costs of traditional paper tickets
  • Accelerated fleet investment, enabled by improved operating cashflow
  • Greater network efficiency arising from planned interchange, enabled by the through-ticketing capability and elimination of transfer charging
  • Increased ridership as a result of the network integration, though this is of more significance to the rail-based modes
  • Technology basis for ITS applications such as automatic vehicle location and management, and real-time passenger information