La Paz is situated at a whopping 3,650 meters above sea level in Bolivia. El Alto, the country's second biggest metropolis, is located 500 meters above that. Now a new cable car system linking the world's highest cities made its public debut, allowing tens of thousands of commuters to bypass congested roadways for a sleek ride in the sky.
Mi Teleférico's shiny red cabins will eventually run on three lines — just the first one opened this week — with the people-moving power of 18,000 passengers an hour across an 11-kilometer stretch; that's nearly 7 miles, which will apparently make this the longest urban cable-car system on earth (there are others that are longer, but they're not smack-dab in the middle of two civic centres).
Taking to the air could cut travel times in half while reducing the number of cars on the road, and a ride is expected to cost 3.50 Bolivanos to the current 2.50 for bus fare.
Assuming everything goes smoothly, this seems like a pretty ingenious solution to the tricky problem of building smart transportation infrastructure over what is essentially the sheer side of a steep mountain. The effect on the skyline looks minimal, and I imagine that sitting back to take in a panoramic view as opposed to hustling on the ground would make the whole process much, much more enjoyable — not to mention more efficient.
Plus, there's already a precedent for this kind of lift in South America. Colombia's Metrocable extends out to Medellín's less-accessible suburbs, and Rio has installed gondolas that tower over the Complexo do Alemão and Morro da Providência favelas — which have been relatively well-received, but are not without controversy.
Mi Teleférico opens to the public in May, and it will likely take time to gauge its impact on the area, but hopefully it eases some of the strain on those who traverse the heights daily. [The Guardian]