In 2004, Medellín opened the first cable car as part of a public transport system worldwide. This gondola lift is supported by the municipality and embedded in an integrated urban development programme. It creates opportunities for the city`s poor population and reduces marginalisation.
The city of Medellín stretches from a narrow valley to vast areas on hilly slopes. The latter settlements often resulted from informal settling processes and are characterised by poverty of inhabitants. Insufficient transport, low presence of state institutions and lack of public services inhibited development and employment opportunities for residents. Furthermore, these problems have contributed to physical and social marginalisation of those districts. Poor access to the labour market, increasing lack of opportunities as well as high crime and violence rates were the result. Since the start of the millennium, local government has initiated comprehensive and integrated interventions in order to upgrade the districts in collaboration with their communities.
Equal access to mobility has been one of the most important issues in Medellín`s urban development planning. Two additional cable car routes are being planned and the first tramway Ayacucho is expected to be finished in 2014. Improving the city’s ecosystem and connecting leisure and sports facilities with the planned green belt are further important projects.
Local government has been implementing the integrated urban projects (PUI) since 2003. They actively involve the affected population in planning and implementation of projects. Within 14 months, construction of cable car route K in the Santo Domingo Savio neighbourhood was completed. It also directly connects to the central metro line of Medellín. Moreover, the project provided for investments in a public library, kindergartens, public space and sports facilities. Inter-institutional cooperation promotes the planning and development of comprehensive concepts, meanwhile known as “Social Urbanism”.
The second route J was inaugurated in 2008. In 2011, the metro system was complemented by Metroplus, a Bus-Rapid-Transit. Its large, energy-saving buses use separate bus lanes, similar to a metro or tram.
Metrocable line K reaches around 230,000 inhabitants in 12 localities and links the city’s Northeast with its centre. It reduces the average transfer time from 120 to 65 minutes. Route J potentially serves 315,000 inhabitants in 37 districts, where additional housing is currently being developed. Further projects have been initiated in the East, Northwest and West.
Integration to Medellín’s public transport system through the cable car increases comfort and reduces expenditures on time and costs. Particularly low-income customers save money because they pay per ride, independently from the distance travelled. The “Civic Card”, a rechargeable swipe card, reduces waiting time since commuters can pay for their rides in advance.
Introducing the Metrocable and connecting marginalised areas were the starting point for a physical and social transformation of Medellín and its communities. A process of mutual appreciation was set out, also contributing to a greater sense of belonging. The formerly excluded population is now more included in the city’s social, economic and political life. They also participated in the decision-making on future urban development projects. Meanwhile, the newly connected neighborhoods have been upgraded noticeably: Local businesses have settled and crime rates went down.
Dávila, Julio D. (editor): Urban mobility and poverty. Lessons from Medellín and Soacha, Colombia.
Website of the local urban development and planning authority (Empresa de desarrollo urbano) www.edu.gov.co