28
Jan

2015

La Paz Announces 6 New Cable Car Transit Lines, Leaves Developed World in the Past

Post by Steven Dale

Linea Roja in La Paz, Bolivia. Image by Flickr user David Almeida.

Linea Roja in La Paz, Bolivia. Image by Flickr user David Almeida. (Creative commons.)

Forgive the pun, but with yesterday’s announcement of six new cable transit lines for La Paz, Bolivia, the developing world continues to show that it is actually capable of developing new transportation projects, whereas the developed world seems to be capable of little more than resting on the laurels of what was developed generations ago. 

Consider the Bolivian situation:

Not more than two years ago, the country announced three new cable car lines with a total distance of around 12 kilometres spread across 11 stations. Those three lines were all operational by the end of last year. This new announcement will add an additional 21 kilometres of lines distributed over 23 stations — all of which, presumably, will be built in the same speedy manner.

When completed, the system as a whole will offer a level of capacity beyond that of the average North American tram or streetcar, as well as wait times of seconds between vehicles — at a fraction of the price of other standard modes.

I have no desire here to get into a debate on the merits of cable propelled transit systems versus things like streetcars and light rail — pick whichever you like and built it.

But the key here is this: You’ve gotta actually build it.

Very soon, La Paz will have added 33 kilometres of fixed-link transit spread across 33 stations in a period of only five years. In Bolivia.

This is what I meant years back when I talked about the Wealth of Poor Nations. Developing World nations are now unquestionably on the leading edge of transportation thinking because they aren’t just thinking about it, they’re doing it. 

They don’t look down upon things like share-taxis and jitneys, nor do they see anything wrong with using ski lifts as public transportation. De Rigeur Bus Rapid Transit, lest we transit nerds  forget, was invented in Brazil not because it was fashionable, but because it was cheap, fast, and necessary.

Compare that to the situation in a Developed World city like my hometown of Toronto. There, people are engaged in an almost never-ending debate about whether or not to use subways or light rail in a specific corridor that’s only six kilometres long.

Things have become so absurd that the newest incarnation of the project (and there have been many) would force the city to pay up to $85 million in penalties for cancelling past plans and contracts.

Is the new plan better than any of the old ones? Who know? Who cares? The point is that a major Developed Nation city is willing to pay $85 million to actively not build transit.

By my rough calculations, if someone gave Bolivia $85 million they’d take that ready cash and turn it into four kilometres of fixed-link transit with five stations and have it done by Christmas.

So, on second thought, don’t compare the Bolivian situation to the situation in the Developed World.

There isn’t any comparison.



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Thoughts / Urban Planning & Design
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