Metrocable

This design file is a work in progress. We welcome contributions, corrections, and updates. Read Collecting Design (Digitally) at M21D to learn more about our approach to collecting design.

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  • Creators: Metro de Medellín, including engineers and social workers. Supported by the Municipality of Medellín

  • Materials and methods: (research ongoing)

  • Environment: The potential environmental impacts, which were considered in the planning stages, include benefits such as reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, and air quality has been improved.

    • Carbon footprint: (research ongoing)

    • Energy: (research ongoing)

  • Labor: employed local people in construction and operations (more research on working conditions, wage standards, or information about unionization required)

  • Equality: (research ongoing)

  • Access: Ticket prices range from 300 - 5.200 Colombian Pesos, that's 0.06 - 1.12 Euro. Standard opening times for Line K: 4:30am - 11:00pm Monday - Saturday, 8:30am - 10:00pm Sunday. The total cost of the first line (Line K) was 24 million US dollars.

  • Life-cycle assessment: (research ongoing)

In 2004, the Colombian city of Medellín became the first city in the world to fully integrate an aerial cable car into its public transit system. The project, named Metrocable, led by Metro de Medellín, was designed to connect isolated communities, who had suffered geographic and institutional neglect, with the city center.

Medellín sits nestled in the steep and narrow Aburrá Valley. As with many South American cities, it grew rapidly and informally. People who moved to the city often built their houses on the city periphery, which slowly crept up the steep hillsides that circumvented it. These hills are now fully-fledged neighborhoods, or barrios, with close-set houses, winding staircases, and narrow streets. When Colombia was facing a drug trafficking crisis, mass rural-urban migration, and economic decline, these hard-to-reach, low-income hillside communities were particularly vulnerable to violence. 

Pervasive crime, heavy-handed policing, and a lack of public services eroded trust between residents and their government, making it difficult to build support among residents for any proposed municipal solutions. Metro de Medellín recognized the importance of social outreach early on. As part of initial social and environmental assessments, the organization worked to map out the social fabric of the most impacted communities. Local programming built around the project and the hiring of community members as construction workers and operations staff complemented this research. 

Metrocable’s first line, Line K, connects some of the city's most physically challenging to reach and socially marginalized areas in northeastern Medellín with the urban center. Today, around 150,000 people use Metrocable daily, and the use of  1.7 million gallons of diesel fuel per year has been prevented. The cable car has also had the knock-on effects of reduced crime rates, increased access to education, reduction of daily travel times and the cost of commuting, and attracted new businesses, tourism, and investments to previously disconnected parts of the city. 

Public enthusiasm for the cable car appears to be strong, judging by the number of passengers that use it daily, but what do local residents think of the Metrocable? "The Metrocable means more security, fewer drugs, time and money saving, economic advantages, more possibilities for young people, a meeting point, and the attempt to maintain the streets and houses," said Viviana, an inhabitant of Santo Domingo who lives near Line K.

The project and its associated public investments are widely attributed as the starting point of Medellín’s urban transformation. In fact, Metrocable was so successful in the eyes of the city that the government installed a giant escalator in another Medellín district for similar purposes in 2011. The project has been nominated for numerous international awards by members of the urban design community, and has inspired similar public transit initiatives in cities with similar topographies and socioeconomic dynamics, including Bogota and Manizales, Colombia; Rio de Janeiro and Santo Domingo, Brazil; and La Paz, Bolivia.

Metro de Medellín’s active involvement of affected communities and ultimate goal of creating a more equitable and environmentally friendly city make Metrocable a strong candidate for the M21D design collection. Additional study into its lasting local impacts is still needed. We’re currently collecting additional reviews by users and members of barrio communities.