Bolivia Revolutionizes Urban Mass Transit: From the Streets to the Sky

Source: NACLA Report on the Americas

How a spectacular urban cable car system and a new municipal bus program are revolutionizing mass transit in La Paz and El Alto, with the help of some political competition.

Those searching for revolution in Bolivia may find it in unexpected places. On the streets and in the sky above La Paz, the nation’s capital, and the neighboring indigenous city of El Alto, a genuine transformation of the urban public transportation system is taking shape, against the backdrop of a political competition that is working to the benefit of local residents.

On December 4, President Evo Morales inaugurated the third line of Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car), the spectacular new cable car system launched last May between La Paz and El Alto. With its Red, Yellow, and Green Lines (the colors of the Bolivian flag), 11 stations, and 427 gondola cabins spanning more than 6 miles at 13,500 feet, it is the longest and highest urban cable car system in the world.

Around 100,000 passengers each day—more than 1 out of every 5 commuters between the two cities—are now riding the teleférico to work or school, to buy or sell goods in the local market, or to enjoy family leisure or tourist activities in one location or the other. Compared to the grueling, unpredictable journey in a packed taxi, minivan, or microbus that is the customary mode of local transit, the popular teleférico offers a quick hop in the sky between sleek, modern terminals, with spectacular vistas along the way and free internet at the stations. While the fare of 3 bolivianos (43c) costs more than a minivan ride, passengers who are elderly, disabled, or students pay only half, and the commute takes less than 20 minutes instead of the usual hour.

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