La Paz's Mi Teleferico (My Cable Car) only opened a year ago, but it has already improved the lives of thousands of people living in the densely populated Bolivian capital. This high-flying mode of public transportation, which gets some of its power from solar, mind you, is stealth but silent, produces no pollution, and happens to provide excellent views of the city and Andes Mountains. Built during the democratic socialist Evo Morales Ayma presidency, the world's longest air tram system connects the less affluent district of El Alto (at 3,620 ft high) with the well-off neighborhoods of La Paz.
It’s hard to grasp how huge and busy the Bolivian capital is until you see it from above. Measuring 6.2 miles long, the cable car system currently has three lines (red, yellow and green–like Bolivia’s flag), and there are six more to come. Built by Austrian company Doppelmayr, the city aims for the Teleferico to be the city’s primary mode of transportation, with a capacity of 18,000 passengers an hour.
The Telerifico was initially designed to improve life for commuters who dealt with blasting horns, smoke-belching buses and floods of pedestrians during rush hour. A metro system isn’t possible due to La Paz’s many underground rivers. Now many Bolivians can choose a quicker ride, while admiring the city and majestic Andes Mountains. This not only reduces traffic and saves time and money, it’s also more environmentally amicable.
The noise and pollution-free electric cable car derives its lighting from solar panels, and the air inside the cabins is cleaner than on the ground. On the other hand, the cabins often pass so close to people’s homes, you can almost guess what they’re having for dinner. While some inhabitants opted for new curtains, others pasted ad banners on their roofs or walls to make extra cash (there is no law against it yet). Its small physical footprint is another crucial highlight.
There are currently 10 stations along the three lines, each offering a serene atmosphere. Cars depart every 12 seconds and the network is open 17 hours a day. The name of each station is illustrated in both Spanish and Aymara, proudly celebrating the region’s native language.
Photos by © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat