“El Alto” forms a giant spider’s web, whose ten lines connect the two cities 21 kilometers apart. The largest cable car in the world is powered by clean energy and offers its visitors a unique landscape of the Bolivian capital, with the right to an artistic route.
It is the longest and tallest cable car network in the world. It is 31 km long, divided into ten different lines, each with its own color, strategically connecting the neighborhoods of La Paz to the city of El Alto.
Public air transport is considered safe and comfortable. “I was never afraid to go up, from the first moment. I’ve been to El Alto during a storm, in the rain, because La Paz is like that, but I trust the cable car,” says Bárbara Iñiguez, a user of this service.
Architect Teddy Aguirre, project manager at the state company Mi Teleférico, says that this type of transport is safer than using subways, trains, cars or buses.
Inside the cabin, you feel that the equipment doesn’t move very fast. The average speed is between 18 and 21 km per hour. However, due to frequent traffic jams in the city, the cable car is faster than a bus or even a taxi. At least that’s what Rosmery de Peredo says:
It is a comfortable means of transport. A lot of people say it’s slow, but I feel it’s fast, it’s more direct and it’s a wonderful thing that La Paz has.”
For Franz Durán, the cable car is ideal for the topography of La Paz, full of mountains and with a valley in the middle.
“I think it’s more difficult for the inhabitants to travel from the hills, isn’t it? But with this it’s possible to travel longer distances and get closer to more distant places”, he considers.
Tens of thousands of passengers per week
Since May 2014, when it began operations, the giant spider’s web has transported nearly five million passengers. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, traffic has dropped, but it is slowly returning to normal.
“Currently there are about 20,000 passengers using the lifts per week. The number was much higher before the pandemic, we had between 30 and 35,000 passengers per week”, details architect Teddy Aguirre.
The goal is for Mi Teleférico to grow even more, opening another 15 lines in the next few years to integrate with the municipal bus system in both cities.
Currently, more than 60% of public transport in La Paz is provided by a network of unionized minibuses.
ecology and tourism
Compared to land transport, the cable car has another advantage: the use of clean energy. “The cabin, the functioning of the doors, the cameras, its lighting and everything inside it works with solar energy”, explains Aguirre.
For now, only the stations still do not work with solar energy. But this is one of the projects: the implementation of solar panels on the roofs of the stations.
As it gained fame, the largest cable car in the world also became a tourist attraction in the Bolivian capital. Looking at the city of La Paz from above is a unique experience, which exposes the socioeconomic contrasts that exist according to the city’s areas.
The brick houses seem to hang on the hills, defying gravity or wanting to climb towards the sky, as Elena Inofuentes says.
There is a moment when it rises almost perpendicularly and, of course, we are closer to the sky. Suddenly, we arrived in El Alto”.
El Alto is 4,000 meters above sea level.
urban centrality and culture
The cable car in La Paz cost almost US$700 million (about R$3.9 billion). Critics say it was expensive compared to lifts in other countries. The responsible company says that this is justified by the internal and external surveillance system and the infrastructure created around the stations, which become a new kind of neighborhood center.
“The stations are designed in this sense, that is, they become centralities, we can have banks, we can have supermarkets, we can have food courts, we can have activities that are alternatives for the citizen”, cites Aguirre.
The Red Line, which was a historic train station, offers a gastronomic offer inside old train cabins, creating an atmosphere of yesteryear. This is also the ideal setting for artistic presentations.
Typical dances like the Diablada and the Morenada were projected on the facade of the old train station in a performance of lights and music.
Mi Teleférico has an agreement to operate in its facilities the Cultural Revolution Center, one of the arms of the Central Bank Foundation, which promotes a broader concept of what culture is.
The goal is to “de-selitize art, de-selitize the way culture is seen, who is cultured, who is not, and how it opens up to the possibility of cultural diversity as a fundamental aspect, which is constantly being recreated and energized, and there is a lot of creativity in the middle,” explains David Aruquipa, from the Central Bank Foundation.
From this concept, the Red Line’s Parque de las Culturas and de la Madre Tierra was created, which has several theaters and promotes cultural, artistic and social encounters. Recently, there was an artistic musical meeting between Bolivia and Mexico, on the feast of the dead.
“The understanding of the life and death of our indigenous peoples for our contemporary societies is always based on these elements of music, dance and creation. A bridge was built between Bolivia and Mexico in order to understand this as a contemporary cultural action, which continues to revitalize and provoke us”, comments Aruquipa, about one of the last cultural trips made by users of this air transport.