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‘Cable Car’ Sees Boom in South America to Overcome Traffic Congestion

‘Cable Car’ Sees Boom in South America to Overcome Traffic Congestion

Monday, 4 December, 2017 - 07:45
A view of cable cars over a neighborhood in Ecatepec, Mexico, on Aug. 25, 2016. (Mario Vazquez/AFP/Getty Images)

The cable-car soars above Ecatepec, a poor suburb of Mexico City.

The first urban "cable car" system (Mexicable) has transported 1.6 million passengers from the suburb since October 2016 along a five-kilometer road including seven stations.

The entire journey takes only 17 minutes, which is less than half the time spent by a commuter using a public bus or a taxi. The ticket price is 7 pesos (37 cents).

Nancy Romero is so happy. Romero, a Mexicable passenger said: "I can go to work now more quickly and comfortably. Public buses are always stacked with passengers.”

While cable cars are often seen as high-altitude touristic features, or as a ski transport mean in advanced industrial countries, they have become a mass transit vehicle in Latin America.

"Latin America is now a popular area for cable cars in cities," said an official from Doppelmayr Company, the world's largest cable engineering market.

The German news agency noted that the mountainous nature of the Latin American cities makes cable cars a preferred means of transportation in these cities, which suffer from heavy traffic congestion, and the lack of subway lines.

Almost every city in South America with a population of 200,000 or 300,000 people has already asked us for information about cable cars, added the official whose company has set up lines for cable cars in Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico.

Mexicable lines cost over 1.7 billion pesos ($89 million), and were mainly built by the Italian firm LEITNER.

Among the advantages of the Mexicable system is that it is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the Mexican capital by 10,000 tons a year. Officials also hope it will reduce crime rates targeting public bus passengers.

Officials also believe that "cable cars" will contribute to improving security by facilitating the transfer of citizens to the center of Mexico City, where they can get regular jobs instead of getting involved in criminal acts with gangs; the additional street lights deployed near cable car stations may also help making side streets safer.

For instance, crime rates in Medellin, a Colombian city that was the first in Latin America to implement the "cable car" project in 2004, has declined, although improved security could also be due to increased police presence.

The largest cable car network in Latin America is currently located in the Bolivian capital La Paz, with vehicles carrying up to 125,000 passengers a day.

The Teleferico cable cars network in Bolivia, which is used by nearly 100 million people, was launched in May 2014. Bolivian President Evo Morales opened the fifth line of the planned 10-line network in September.

Sources from the LEITNER Company explain that "cable cars do not need large spaces, and can pass in the air over any obstacle, saving time.”

This Italian company, which led the construction of Mexicable, also built a 3.5 km line in Rio de Janeiro, connecting the Complexo de Ilmão area with a metro station.

This line can carry up to 3,000 passengers per hour, despite that its work was suspended due to financial problems.

Although public transport systems are usually supported by the state, cable cars have become increasingly popular, and experts believe that they can one day recover their operating costs.

The idea worked so well in South America, and has moved to Africa, where it is now being planned for African cities such as Lagos in Nigeria, and Mombasa, Kenya, according to sources in the cable cars sector.

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