Uber Crosses Continents With Istanbul Water-Taxi Service

Bosphorus Strait
Ships pass along the Bosphorus strait past the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge between the continents of Europe, top, and Asia in Istanbul. Photographer: Kerem Uzel/Bloomberg

Uber Technologies Inc. is going intercontinental, enlisting the help of Istanbul mariners to carry passengers back and forth across the city’s central Bosporus strait.

The service, called UberBOAT, will appear on the smartphone app when a user stands near the coastline of the city’s central waterway. Trips will be made in Beneteau boats owned by a local company, Navette-Tezman Holding, which will compete with tanker traffic and pleasure cruisers to take customers to their desired destination.

Turkey’s largest metropolis is one of the few cities in the world that straddles two continents, and millions make the commute between Asia and Europe every day. Public ferries serve about 20 routes for a basic price of 2.15 lira (81 U.S. cents), while an underground metro tunnel and two intercontinental suspension bridges also serve commuters. A third bridge and a car tunnel are on the way.

Uber’s water-taxi service will start at 50 liras ($19) and each boat has capacity for 7 to 10 passengers. A trip from the Ciragan Hotel, a converted Ottoman palace, to the closest part of the coastline to Istanbul’s main airport will cost around 400 liras, San Francisco-based Uber said in a statement.

Istanbul beats Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro in having the world’s worst traffic congestion, according to data from navigation-device maker TomTom NV. “This is a good addition to help solve Istanbul’s traffic problems by offering transport on the Bosporus, which is obviously underutilized,” Austin Kim, Uber’s operations manager in Istanbul, said by phone.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE