Medellin/Caracas, Part 1

Post by Steven Dale

Last week I travelled to Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela to tour five of the most important CPT systems in the world. This is Part 1 of a photo essay on those systems. In this part, a brief overview of the history of cable transit in this part of the world will be explained. Image by Steven Dale.


Modern Cable Propelled Transit started in Caracas, Venezuela with the Mount Avila Gondola. This system was originally built in the middle of the last century to carry people from Caracas to the top of Mount Avila where the luxurious Hotel Humboldt had been built. Political and economic strife caused the government to leave for neglect both the hotel and gondola. The gondola itself was not reopened until 1999, after a successful rebuild.

The Avila Mountain Gondola In Caracas. Image by Steven Dale.

An Avila Mountain Gondola From Below. Image by Steven Dale.

A gondola passes over two original and well-preserved antique gondola cars at the Mount Avila Caracas Terminal. Image by Steven Dale.

The Avila gondola cannot, however, be truly classed as cable transit. It lacks integration to the local transit network and really exists more for tourists, not local commuters. It did, however, indirectly inspire the nearby city of Medellin, Colombia to pursue a fully-integrated CPT system to serve the impoverished and dangerous barrio of Santo Domingo. The system would take almost 5 years to open, from conception to fruition and would be the world’s first true CPT system. They would name it The Metrocable. The first line, consistent with the city’s existing Metro system, would be named Linea K.

A Linea K Metrocable Car in Medellin, Colombia. Image by Steven Dale.

The Metrocable over top the Santo Domingo barrio. Image by Steven Dale.

Gondolas depart a Linea J Metrocable station. Image by Steven Dale.

Metrocable Linea K would be an enormous success. Crime rates in Santo Domingo plunged and area investment skyrocketed. In the four years since Linea K opened, crime in Santo Domingo virtually disappeared, jobs have increased 300% and 3 banks have opened along the Metrocable route. With such an obvious success story, Metro officials had little trouble convincing decision-makers to open Linea J.

Unlike Linea K, Linea J would connect several smaller barrios in the western end of the city. These barrios suffered from similar economic conditions but did not have the population density that Linea K had. This was considered a good thing as Linea K suffered from overcrowding almost immediately upon opening, a situation not witnessed on Linea J.

A Linea J gondola. Image by Steven Dale.

Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela was not to be undone. The opening of the second Metrocable line in Medellin made Chavez lust after a similar system in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Within 2 years, Chavez’s dream would be realized with Caracas opening their own cable transit system in early 2010. It was also to be named The Metrocable.

Like the Medellin systems before it, the Caracas Metrocable would provide transit to under-serviced barrios with a history of crime and poverty. But unlike the Medellin systems, Caracas would feature enormous stations that included social facilities such as gymnasiums, police stations, community centres and markets. The Caracas Metrocable would also be the first in the world to feature extreme 90 degree turning radii at stations.

Gondolas enter and exit a station in Caracas. Image by Steven Dale.

The Caracas Metrocable. Image by Steven Dale.

The Metrocable loop between Medellin and Venezuela came full circle in early 2010. While Chavez was opening his first system in Caracas, Medellin was opening their third Metrocable line. But this time, the line looked more similar to the original Mount Avila system from Venezuela circa 1999.

While still fully-integrated into the Medellin Metro, the new Linea L services the Parque Arvi at the top of a nearby mountain in Medellin and requires an additional fare of 1,550 Colombian Pesos (roughly $1 US dollar). Linea L would give quick, affordable access to wilderness and parkland facilities that had previously only been accessible to wealthy land-owners in Medellin. This was a welcome change, given Colombia’s historically wide gap between rich and poor.

A Linea L gondola. Image by Steven Dale.

Medellin as seen from the Linea L, Parque Arvi nature preserve. Image by Steven Dale.

Both cities are engaged in major plans to expand their Metrocable offerings and cities throughout Latin America are embarking upon cable transit plans of their own.

Read Part 2.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.


  1. Steven, excellent analysis. You may address these questions in Part 2. I'm interested how the local authorities modified (or plan to modify) the urban fabric to fully utilise the aerial ropeway's in these applications. You mentioned investment skyrocked in the areas made accessible, I assume land development has been a part of that. Has urban design been implemented through structure planning or land use policies to fully utilise the technology, or has the resultant development been ad-hoc? As you know, these systems present opportunities for TOD. Also, did you get information regarding the installation cost of these systems? Look forward to your response.
  2. The METRO runs north and south through the center of beautiful Medellin, along, and above, the River Medellin. The "ticket to ride" costs about 50 cents u.s. and includes Line A, Line B and the Metrocable. Line A has 19 stations and the total run takes a bit over a half hour. Additional cars are added during heavier demand times, so the scheduled times remain the same. Line B runs east and west and has 7 stations. The Metrocable, with four stations, goes up the mountain heading east, offering tourists some spectacular views of Medellin. http://irotamaresort.com/ Ultra clean, safe, efficient, and loads of fun, the METRO is a modern world- class transportation system. It easily beats anything Disney has to offer, and at a Peso-like fraction of the cost. For loads of fun get off at each station, check out the views, and get back on the next train which will stop and pick you up in about five minutes.
  3. Steven, This website and your work has been a blessing in the last two weeks while I have been working on a presentation on the merits of aerial systems for urban area. We are a group of engineers and our plan is to convince the official of a very large city, population over 2M, to consider aerial metro rather than the traditional underground. The proposal requires multiple stations for the urban area as well as a 3 stop system either part of the main system or independent. The later system would climb to reach the mountaintop, which will offer hotel accommodation plus all sorts of attraction. Besides the valuable points from your site I also have been studying the manufacturer’s site in order to put the presentation together. As much as I am a positive person in everything but realistically I am inclined to believe that when it comes to implement the system it is not going to be as rosy as one would like. It is imperative to know that the city has a bus transit system in place for years but the traffic conjunction makes it obsolete. Could you please elaborate on a possibility of planning a 4 lane areal metro system with plans to expand if necessary? Thank you and keep up the good work
  4. Thanks for the kind words, AzariMan, I agree that "selling" the idea is not rosy. It's difficult, complicated and challenging. But that's also the fun of it. Remember: Just make sure you have as many people 'on-side' as possible. As for your other questions, it's probably best if you contact me by email ( steven (at) creativeurbanprojects (dot) com ). I'm looking forward to hearing more about your exciting project! And don't worry, I won't discuss it on The Gondola Project until you give me permission to.
  5. Steven and AzariMan, As a student writing a business proposal(for business writing class) to try to solve the issues with the bus system here at my university, I am finding this site very useful. In an effort to write a report and gather better information i was wondering if i is possible for you to help me out or point me in the right direction. I am definitely going to use this as my model of success, but i really need information like: how much this costs per mile approximately, what company would be able to construct a three line system with two or three stops on each line, what the cost of running these lines would be like, how Eco-freindly they are or are not even. I am a freshman and this a junior level class so I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, any help would be greatly appreciated.Thanks for the excellent work you have already done. Warm regards, Dan.
  6. send me your email address and I will share a presentation for a multi-purpose project and analysis we have done in employing cable car system,
  7. Thank you very much Azariman, that would be extremely helpful.- Dan Email address: deveetz18@aim.com
  8. Hi Dan, My apologies for the late reply (been a chaotic couple weeks). Feel free to send me an email at my personal address.
  9. Very interesting article and comment. I'm french, in an engineering school (Ponts et Chaussées) and this technological solution is totally unknown in France for urban transpot. It's a very weird, because we have a lot of ski stations and the main industrial in this sector is french (Poma). Despite of this situation, only one city uses this mean of transport like a urban transport (Grenoble). I am very interested to do a report on this subject to conclude my studies. I would be very interested if I could help in the projet of Azariman. If you think about a specific subject, I am available to help you. Bye
  10. Hi Alexis, Email us at gondola(at)creativeurbanprojects(dot)com and we'll see if we can help you.

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