Medellin’s Cable Cars






As the center of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel, Medellin was considered one of the world’s most violent cities in the 1980s and ’90s, with police reluctant to enter many parts of the city as street gangs and guerilla groups fought each other for control of neighborhoods.  Violence in the countryside resulted in its depopulation, with those surviving the murders and disappearances moving to the city, where they inhabited slums that climbed up the exceptionally steep slopes of the Medellin River valley.  The resultant crowded, narrow roads and steep inclines made it impossible to provide public transportation to bring the inhabitants to the city for work, and there were few jobs in the slums.


In 2004, Medellin opened its first fast-moving urban gondola, a new kind of mass transit.  Going from the Santa Domingo hilltop slum, then one of the city’s most violent areas, to the city center, the cable car enabled people to find work in the city and bring money to the community.  The number of homicides in Santa Domingo fell from 293 in 2001 to 15 in 2016, and it is now considered a place of relative peace.  The second line was opened in 2008 to La Aurora, and today there are three lines, with more planned.


The cable cars each hold eight passengers and ascend the hills on an elevated cable at 10 miles an hour.  They drop their passengers at stations right in the middle of busy city neighborhoods.  Line K, the first and most popular line, has 30,000 riders per day.  The first city in the world to use cable cars for public transport, Medellin has been enormously successful in reducing crime and offering the residents of the city a sense of belonging.



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