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To be perfectly honest, I don't know how such a large complex could be any closer to Istanbul. Site selection/location is actually one of 'pros' of Istanbul Park, it's just under an hour's ride even with my 125cc commuter ( I do reside in the Asian side however).
Relative poor attendance have always been about ticket prices here. They've been cheaper than all European venues, but the Turkish working class simply does not make nearly as much as their European counterparts. At the last race, the tickets were really affordable (35 euros for general admittance IIRC) and the grass area round turn 3 where I was at was more than 80 percent full. Attendance at race day was probably around 50k. I think it should be more than that though.