Mobility for the urban poor? Cable-car systems in Latin American cities

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The first cable-car system as urban public transport was introduced in Medellín (Colombia) in 2004, and attracted much interest. Medellin now has three cable-car lines in operation, and there are two working in Caracas, two in Rio de Janeiro, and three in La Paz; all four cities have plans to implement more lines, and several other cities in Latin America are planning similar systems. The first generation of cable-cars was novel in the sense of introducing old .tourist. technology as public transport systems in poor urban areas. Cable-cars cou inaccessible hilly areas where conventional solutions such as road or rail systems were unfeasible. By offering better accessibility for geographically and socially marginalised sectors of the population, cable-cars posed the question as to what extent this new mobility option could contribute to poverty alleviation and social inclusion. This paper presents an overview of the topic, the results of ongoing research on the urban and social effects of cable-cars in the cities of Medellin (Colombia), and the perspectives for the cable-cars in Caracas (Venezuela), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and La Paz (Bolivia). It is argued that whilst the mechanics of cable-car systems is identical, once put in context each system is highly different in its urban implications and social effects. There appears to be a typology emerging based on different urban functions, each of which has particular consequences for social inclusion in city life for the urban poor, mediated by public/private ownership, integration to existing mass-transport infrastructure, tariff policies, and political conjunctures.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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