Post by Steven Dale
The Caracas Metrocable, Introduction
Imitation, they say, is the greatest form of flattery. And if that’s the case, then Caracas is clearly smitten with Medellin. Inspired by Medellin’s incredibly positive experience with Cable Propelled Transit, Venezuela has embarked on their own CPT campaign, beginning first in the capital city of Caracas.
Like Medellin, Caracas exists in a narrow mountain valley. It is crowded, dangerous and littered with impoverished, poorly connected hillside barrios. It is an ideal environment for CPT. But the similarity ends there. So much is similar between the Medellin and Caracas Metrocables (not the least of which is the name), it would be easy to ignore the differences. But those differences are many and dramatic. The two systems are both cousins and rivals, synonyms and antonyms. The Caracas component of Medellin/Caracas will partly focus on those differences.
One difference between the Caracas and Medellin situations must be stated up front: While both cities (like all cities) suffer from traffic congestion, one is typical (Medellin) and the other is a complete and utter basket case (Caracas). See, Venezuela is a net exporter of oil whose central policy is to subsidize petrol prices. This policy results in Venezuela having the cheapest gasoline on the planet; 12 cents per gallon (USD)! Consequently, the roads of Caracas are a traffic nightmare the likes of which would make North Americans pine for the rush hour gridlock they are typically accustomed to. A trip of a half dozen kilometers can take (literally) hours. Traffic lights, lane demarcations and signals are ignored and pointless. Bumper-to-bumper is a ridiculous understatement.
In other words, Caracas needs cheap public transit outside the right-of way of the private automobile in a way that one needs to witness to appreciate. It could rightly be called a crisis. The Metrocable is part of the solution to that crisis.
As the Caracas Metrocable opened mere weeks ago (it had been out of testing for just two weeks during my visit), it is impossible to discuss the “success” of the system, only it’s existence. But the fact that it exists at all is important. That the world doesn’t know it even exists, more so.
The photos you’ll see here over the next few days are unique. I was afforded time to speak with technicians, operators, designers and salesmen associated with the Metrocable and given free reign to photograph and videotape as I saw fit. Please lead people to these next few posts. Anyone associated with or interested in public transit needs to see them.
Hopefully you find the Caracas Metrocable as inspiring as I did.
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