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How are cable cars improving mobility and reducing segregation in Latin America

Photo by David Almeida via Flickr 

Cable cars are systems which are used to transport people and goods to places where using other means is much more complicated and expensive. Traditionally cable cars have been installed in tourist attractions such as theme parks and winter resorts, however, more and more cities around the world are taking advantage of their potential, using cable cars as part of their mass transit network.

In countries such as Colombia and Bolivia, where several of its main cities are located in areas of complex topography, cable cars have become a practical solution for mobility. From Medellin to La Paz, these systems have transformed the urban trips of millions of people, improving accessibility to the districts furthest from the central areas, which were difficult to access through traditional transportation systems.

La Paz, Bolivia. Photo by Ádám Maráczvia via Flickr

La Paz, the seat of Government of Bolivia and one of the highest cities in the world, is an example of how cable cars can become the main structure of the entire urban transport network. The metropolitan area of La Paz is located in a complicated relief crossed by deep valleys and steep cliffs, where moving from the central area to the highest neighborhoods can take several hours, avoiding the frequent traffic jams and winding the narrow and inclined streets.

Photo by Samuel Auguste via Flickr

To deal with this situation, La Paz undertook the ambitious project of building an extensive network of cable cars, called Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car) that would allow covering the different sectors of the city efficiently, also extending to neighboring localities such as El Alto. The first line was put into operation in 2014 and in September 2018 its last extension (Purple Line) was inaugurated. At present, the entire system has 25 stations divided into 8 lines, forming a total network of 27.2 km, which makes it the longest urban cable car in the world.

Complete network of La Paz Mi Teleferico. Source Wikimedia Commons

La Paz cable car will continue to expand and plans to open another three lines, with which it expects to reach a length of 33.8 km by 2020. Since its opening four years ago, this system has revolutionized the mobility of hundreds of thousands of people, connecting the city better and even becoming a popular tourist attraction, which allows to contemplate the impressive and unique geography of La Paz.

Photo by David Almeida via Flickr

Source Wikimedia Commons 

Another country in which urban cable cars have achieved great success is Colombia. In recent years, several Colombian cities have implemented these means of transport as a complement to the interurban mobility network, achieving an adequate integration with other systems, such as in Medellin, where its Metrocable cable car connects with the metro network and tram, or in Cali (MioCable) and recently Bogota (TransMiCable), where the cable cars are complementary to the main BRT system. A special case is the city of Manizales, where in a similar way to La Paz, its cable car works as the main network and not as an auxiliary.

Manizales Cable Car. Source: Wikimedia Commons 

A fundamental aspect in the success of urban cable cars in Colombia has been their role in the construction of a more inclusive city. In historically fragmented cities, both physical and socioeconomic barriers, these projects, in addition to improving mobility, have become networks that have reconnected the urban and social fabric, bringing the population of traditionally marginalized neighborhoods closer to other urban spaces and allowing citizens from other sectors can visit areas that were previously considered inaccessible.

Medellin Metrocable. Photo by J Daoss via Flickr

In Medellin, a pioneer city in the implementation of urban cable cars, its Metrocable system has been an example of how it is possible to turn history around, moving from the harsh image of the past and moving towards a stage of urban transformation. Through a process called "urban acupuncture1", the municipal government has built new public spaces, schools and libraries that are accessible from the cableway stations, creating new nodes of activity within the neighborhoods. In the same way as in La Paz, Metrocable has become a tourist attraction in itself, thanks to its integration with the other transport systems of the city, something that was unthinkable just a few decades ago.

Santo Domingo Station and Public Space. Photo by J Daoss via Flickr

Photo by santiagovm via Flickr

Cases such as Medellin and La Paz highlight the potential of transportation systems as means to generate significant changes in cities. In Latin America, cable cars have been the starting point for a long road of urban transformation, improving daily transport and building less fragmented cities.


1.Mehaffy Michael . Urban Acupuncture in Medellin, Colombia. A case study of strategies for catalytic self-organization (https://onresilientsettlement.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/urban-acupuncture-in-medellin-colombia/

Comments

  1. Hi Anushya! Thank you for your comment and I am very glad you enjoyed this topic.

    This year La Paz is expanding its cable car system and other cities in Colombia are implementing this transport mode, so we will be updating this topic soon with more information.

    Greetings!

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