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South American Cities Launch Urban Gondola Systems

Under most of our radar, South American cities have successfully integrated gondola-like Cable Propelled Transit systems into their public transit networks. Two dozen cities in South America are in various stages of embracing CPT, though the urban gondola system has its roots in Medellin, Colombia. In a recent Planetizen feature, Steven Dale, an expert in cable-propelled transit, gives the back-story on its South American start.

Inspired by a tourist gondola in nearby Caracas, Medellin therefore endeavored to become the first city in the world to fully-integrate ski lift style gondolas into their public transit network. The technology was cheap, fast and safe and it furthermore eliminated all topographical challenges. The initial line opened in 2006 - at only 2 km in length – and now moves up to 40,000 commuters per day, equivalent to Toronto’s famed Queen Streetcar Line; one of the busiest and longest in the world.

The Metrocable (as it's called in Medellin) has been a roaring success and since its opening, Medellin has added an additional 8 km of Cable Propelled Transit lines throughout the city with plans for half dozen more lines. A second, parallel line is planned near the original to ease congestion that resulted from the system meeting ridership double what was forecasted.


Dale writes that CPT is a perfect example of "disruptive technology," a term Harvard professor Clayton Christensen coined to describe "simple, convenient-to-use innovations that initially are used by only unsophisticated customers at the low end of markets." (Though in the case of the CPT's growth in South America, Dale suggests "developing" is a more accurate descriptor than "unsophisticated" or "low end.")

If CPT continues to build up, work out the kinks, and gain market share without the presence of competitors, Dale believes the transportation system is more likely to spread to larger, more developed markets. To read more on how Dale figures that might happen, check out Planetizen.

Photo (cc) Flickr user santiagovm via Planetizen

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