Cable Cars as Urban Public Transport in Medellin

How can cities grow in ways that promote social inclusion?

The city of Medellín, Colombia, built a cable car system to provide a new type of public transport that connected poorer people, living in rugged areas, to Medellin’s public transport system.  The cable car system, Metrocable, was part of an integrated investment in new public transport and neighbourhood infrastructure.  It began operation in 2004, and the success of the first line lead to the construction of several other cable car lines that transport tens of thousands of people daily.

Medellín: Colombia’s Sustainable Transport Capital from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Medellin was the first city to use gondola technology, originally developed for tourism, as a type of urban mass transit.  In Medellin, the increased mobility provided by the cable cars, combined with investment in community schools, housing, community projects and other infrastructure, helped increase employment and decrease crime in areas that had recently had high levels of violence and poverty.  A study that examined the effects of cable cars construction on neighbourhood violence showed that the decline in the murder rate was 66% greater in neighbours with access to cable cars than in similar neighbourhoods.  Furthermore, the carbon emissions of the cable cars were relatively low compared to other modes of transport, and they generated relatively low levels of local air pollution.  More recently the Metrocable system has become a tourist attraction within Medellin, as it provides great views and easy accessibility to Parks as well as other parts of the city.

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Medellin Telegraph Cable car in 2002 photo from Staticshakedown.

The success of the Medellin cablecars was a part of a combined set of urban infrastructure and social investments.  The success of Metrocable lead to the growth of the system in Medellin, its replication across Medellin and its spread to other cities worldwide.  It is unclear if the system has changed Medellin resident’s connection to nature, but it has encouraged people to walk and use public transit.