Photo (Plus Video) of the Week: Línea Azul Soars Above El Alto

Linea Azul (Mi Teleferico Site)

Image from Mi Teleferico.



La Paz-El Alto: Two More Cable Transit Lines Set to Open in 2017


The 2.6km Orange Line and 2.8km White Line will be Mi Teleferico’s 5th and 6th urban cable cars. Image by Mi Teleferico.

For Gondola Project readers and La Paz-El Alto residents, the recent inauguration of the Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Azul) is probably still very fresh in mind.

While the excitement has barely subsided, it might be easy to forget that the Blue Line is just the first of three Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) systems that are scheduled to open this year in the world’s highest metropolis.

Based on online reports, the Orange Line (Spanish: Línea Naranja) and White Line (Spanish: Línea Blanca) are both planned for inauguration by October and December respectively.

The Orange Line will travel in an east-west alignment and will connect to Red Line’s eastern terminus (Central) and the White Line’s northern terminus (Villaroel). From Villaroel, the White Line will travel in a north-south configuration with future integrations to the Brown Line (Spanish: Línea Café) and the Sky Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Celeste).

The opening of the Orange and White Line will create an integrated transport experience from El Alto to Miraflores/San Jorge in La Paz. Image by Mi Teleferico.

The opening of the Orange and White Line will create an integrated transport experience from El Alto to Miraflores/San Jorge in La Paz. Image by Mi Teleférico.

At the start of the month, the Orange Line’s electromechanical components being manufactured in Doppelmayr’s Austrian headquarters were reportedly fully built with 85% of the parts already shipped to La Paz. For the civil works, 40% is already completed while 2 of the 4 stations are 80% finished. For the White Line, the system is now more than 60% complete as of last month with 100% of the electromechanical equipment already mounted.

Central Station (dated Feb 2017). By SSC user Massaff.

The Orange Line’s Central Station (dated Feb 2017) will be integrated with the the Red Line (seen on the right). Image by SSC user Massaff.

The 2.8km White Line will travel along Busch Av with 133 cabins, providing a trip time of 13 minutes. Image from Mi Teleferico.

The 2.8km White Line will travel along Busch Av with 133 cabins, providing a trip time of 13 minutes. At the Villaroel terminal, it will also feautre the world’s first below grade urban gondola station. Image by Mi Teleférico.

At 2.6km and 2.8km respectively, the Orange Line and White Line can be considered “mid-sized” systems. Compared to the other existing urban gondolas in La Paz, the average length is ~3.7km. In terms of stations, both the upcoming systems should have fairly large catchment areas as they are built with 4 stations each — thereby putting it on par with the Green Line and Yellow Line which also have 4 stations per line.

While both these new CPT systems are impressive, one of the most exciting aspects of these 2017 projects relate to the network effects of connecting four urban cable lines together (Blue Line, Red Line, Orange Line and White Line).

Riders will be able to travel on a near seamless journey onboard 12.8km urban gondolas from the bustling markets in El Alto to the boroughs of Miraflores/San Jorge in La Paz in approximately 60 minutes.

All in all, before the end of 2017, more than 10km of new CPT lines will soar above La Paz-El Alto, making it one of, if not the busiest year of urban cable car construction in the City. The incredible pace of construction and the large volumes of passengers transported on Mi Teleférico demonstrates once again that ropeway technology is more than capable of functioning reliability and efficiently in an urban mass transit environment.

And when 2017 is in the books, the dizzying implementation speed of La Paz-El Alto’s transport plans will continue for at least 2 more years. By 2019, the full build out of the world’s largest urban gondola network is expected to reach more than 33km in length!





Tbilisi/Georgian Ropeways, Part 1.2 – Tbilisi State University Ropeway


Tbilisi State University Campus - Bagebi Ropeway (Image by Marco Fieber).

Tbilisi State University Campus – Bagebi Ropeway (Image by Marco Fieber).

As part of our research into the state of urban cable cars in Tbilisi, we’re starting to learn more and more about the 10+ ropeways in the Georgian capital. One fascinating development we’ve received information about is the reconstruction of the Tbilisi State University (TSU) – Bagebi Ropeway.

This 334m Soviet-era system was built in 1983 to connect TSU with its dormitories in the Bagebi neighbourhood across the Vere River gorge. Unfortunately the system’s life was rather short-lived as operations ceased sometime in the 90s during intense civil unrest.

As we know it today, the TSU station (537m a.s.l.) is located north of the River Vere while the Dormitory station (553m a.s.l.) is located south of the river (see map here).

Opening day of ropeway. Image from Alamy.

Opening day of ropeway. Image from Alamy.

Reconstruction seems to be spurred in part by a desire to improve transportation connectivity across the gorge and to the future State University Metro station. Furthermore the need for cross river transportation has been heightened as a nearby footbridge 400m east of the ropeway is planned for reconstruction as well. With a temporary closure, this will severely impact transport options for the Georgian refugees housed in the university dormitories.

Aside from operational systems and the cable being brought in from Austria, sources indicate that most of the ropeway is being completed by a local company. Since the system is being privately rebuilt, the ropeway will not be municipally owned. There is no word yet on fares and ticketing structure.

If everything goes according to plan, the new urban ropeway will reopen in July 2017 and move Tbilisi one step closer towards a more modernized transport network. Until then, reader Irakli Z. has kindly shared with us some of the photos he took of the current reconstruction process. Enjoy!


Due to language barriers, if there is anything we missed or is incorrect, please let us know in the comments below. Thanks



Soaring Across the Yangtze River

Bridges and subways now cross the Yangtze River but nothing quite matches the joy and excitement of soaring across the delta on an urban ropeway.

Youtuber Luke Starkenburg takes us on a journey to learn more about the majestic Chongqing Yangtze River Cableway (Chinese: 长江索道) in what is probably one of the best videos on China’s second Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) line.

To this day, the cableway still attracts 2.5 million riders each year!

Big thanks to Timothy J for sharing the video with us. 



Blue Line (Línea Azul) Transports 41,000 Passengers In One Day

Blue Line (Línea Azul). Image by Mi Teleférico.

Blue Line (Línea Azul). Image by Mi Teleférico.

La Paz-El Alto’s newest Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) system, the Blue Line (Línea Azul), opened for passenger service last Friday and has already surpassed initial projections during its maiden voyage. During the weekend, the urban cable car hit a peak day ridership of 41,000 persons and has directly boosted passenger levels on the Red Line (Línea Roja) by 15%.

At this rate, the Doppelmayr-built Blue Line may likely add 20,000 – 40,000 daily passengers to the entire Mi Teleférico network each day — thereby single-handedly increasing overall network ridership by up to 50% from current passenger numbers (existing: 80,000 – 100,000 daily riders).

Locals came out in droves to be the first ones to experience the Blue Line (Línea Azul). Image by Bolivia Sigue‏.

Locals came out in droves to be the first ones to experience the Blue Line (Línea Azul). Image by Bolivia Sigue‏.

A cursory analysis and comparison of La Paz to other rapid transit lines in North America indicates that only five other light rail systems (i.e. Calgary, Toronto, Guadalajara, Boston, Los Angeles) would have a higher daily ridership than Mi Teleférico.

Arguably, since Toronto’s “light rail system” is really more a “streetcar” network, this means that only four North American LRT systems see larger daily ridership figures. However, it is important to keep in mind that these light rail networks are 60-650% longer than Mi Teleférico and have up to 4.5x more stations.

From an average daily boardings per mile perspective, this is where the La Paz-El Alto’s system truly shines. Mi Teleférico on average transports ~13,000 – 15,000 passengers/mile. Compared to North American LRTs, La Paz would rank 2nd after Mexico’s Guadalajara Light Rail. And if La Paz was measured against all rapid transit systems in North America, Mi Teleférico would actually break the top ten list, ranking 9th just ahead of Santo Domingo’s metro line!

Passenger Boardings Per Mile (North America and La Paz)

SystemCountryLength (miles)Year OpenedStationsLinesAvg Daily Boarding Per Mile
New York City SubwayUSA23219044682439,055
Mexico City MetroMexico14119691951230,603
Montreal MetroCanada43196668429,390
Toronto SubwayCanada42.4195469425,785
Monterrey MetroMexico20199131224,984
Panama MetroPanama8.5201413121,176
Guadalajara Light RailMexico14.9198929217,790
Mi TeleféricoBolivia9.3201416413,000 - 15,000
Santo Domingo MetroDominican Republic17200930210,461

Note: Guadalajara Light Rail added to Wikipedia’s “List of North American rapid transit systems by ridership” in table above to allow for comparison of all rapid transit and not just Metro systems.


Some readers will likely argue that these are unfair comparisons since the landscape and modal split for North American and South American cities are different. While this might be true to a certain degree, this brief analysis reinforces that urban cable transit is no longer a fringe technology that’s incapable of operating as a reliable mass transit system.

On the contrary, Mi Teleférico demonstrates that when properly implemented, urban gondolas can quickly enhance and complement existing public transit networks.

Cultural celebrations took place at the Blue Line's western terminus, Wana Jawira, on March 3, 2017. Image by Bolivia Sigue.

Cultural celebrations took place at the Blue Line’s western terminus, Wana Jawira, on March 3, 2017. Image by Bolivia Sigue.

With this fantastic reception, manager of the state-owned ropeway system reiterated that the entire urban gondola network has achieved economic self-sufficiency — a goal rarely achieved by mass transit systems. Overall, as the city’s transport system modernizes, officials are diligently monitoring the system’s performance to ensure maximum reliability, safety and comfort.





La Paz Opens City’s Longest Mass Transit Urban Gondola: Blue Line (Línea Azul)

Blue Line flying high in city of El Alto. Image by Mi Teleférico.

Blue Line flying high in city of El Alto. Image by Mi Teleférico.

March 3, 2017 marks a very special day not only in the highlands of Bolivia but in the world of Cable Propelled Transit (CPT). Known on social media as the “Great Blue Leap” (Spanish: #ElGrandSaltoAzul), the 5-station Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Azul) was officially opened for passenger service. The CPT system, built by Doppelmayr, is the 4th urban cable car that is a part of Mi Teleferico’s world leading gondola network.

Depending upon how a public transit ropeway is defined, initial estimates suggest that the Blue Line may be one of the longest mass transit urban gondolas in the world. Comparatively speaking, this system slightly edges out its closest Latin American counterparts by ~100-200m (Mexicable – 4.8km and Mariche Metrocable -4.8km).

Unlike the previous Red, Yellow and Green Lines, the Blue Line operates entirely in El Alto (world’s highest metropolis) and is the first system to be fully equipped with free wifi and security cameras in all cabins. Estimates suggest that the aerial lift will transport 30,000 passengers daily and benefit upwards of half a million residents in 18 neighbourhoods!

From a network perspective, the Blue Line effectively extends the Red Line’s reach deeper into El Alto. The 16 de Julio (Jach’a Qhathu) Station’s role is further strengthened as an interchange station. Already, the station’s ground floor is home to the Amauta Shopping Centre and a commercial area where passengers will walk through during a transfer.  At full build out, 16 de Julio will be one of two interchange stations where you can conveniently transfer onto three separate urban ropeways.


Map of Mi Teleférico at full build out. Image by Mi Teleférico.

Travelling westbound from 16 de Julio station, passengers arrive at Plaza Libertad Station. At this location, a cultural center for El Alto was built to complement and enhance site usage. Between Plaza Libertad Station, Plaza La Paz Station and Universidad Pública de El Alto (UPEA) Station, the cable car is built entirely within the traffic median of 16 de Julio Avenue. In fact, both the Plaza Libertad and Plaza La Paz Stations are built in the middle of a traffic circle. This stretch of the cable car demonstrates how CPT systems can be fitted nimbly and strategically within a city’s existing built form. As more urban cable cars are built, expect many more systems in the future to utilize this design strategy.  

At UPEA station, an estimate of 10,000 from the University’s 35,000+ student population are expected to fully take advantage of the gondola’s direct connection to the campus.

And finally, at the Blue Line’s western terminus is the Ex Rio Seco (Waña Jawtra) Station. An existing commercial area and an interprovincial bus stop are both located at this node, which undoubtedly enhance convenience and connectivity for passengers.

With the completion of the Blue Line, six more systems are left as part of the massive US$450 million Phase 2 investment plans. The next systems that are scheduled to open include the White and Orange Lines (Spanish: Línea Blanca and Línea Naranja) in late 2017. The White Line in early February 2017 was reportedly 60% complete.

As for the remaining cable cars, the Sky Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Celeste) and Purple Line (Spanish: Línea Morada) will open in 2018 while the Silver Line (Spanish: Línea Plateada) and Gold Line (Spanish: Línea Dorada) will open in 2019.

Overall, the Blue Line continues the mandate of the Bolivian government to modernize and improve its transport infrastructure. Just like the existing urban gondolas, the Blue Line is open for 17 hours each day and the fares are priced sensitively at US$0.40 (Bs 3) or US$0.30 (Bs 2) if a passenger is transferring from the Red Line.



System Dossier: Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway


The Shin-Kobe Ropeway. Image by Flickr user Valeri-DBF

The Shin-Kobe Ropeway. Image by Flickr user Valeri-DBF.

The maritime city of Kobe is highly regarded as one of Japan’s most attractive cosmopolitan cities. For many centuries, Kobe has acted as an important port for the Kansai region and was one of Japan’s first ports to open for trade with the West. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, but the city is the source of the popular cuisine dish, Kobe beef.

A popular tourist site situated to the north of the city along the Rokko mountain range is the Nunobiki Herb Garden – home to 75,000 unique types of herbs. Connecting tourists to the garden from the city is accomplished by a 1.5 km urban gondola system.

Built initially in 1991, the gondola was upgraded to an MDG system in 2011 by Nippon Cable. Before the upgrade, the system was operated by Kōbe City Urban Development (神戸市都市整備公社) but is now owned by Kobe City and managed by Kobe Resort Services (神戸リゾートサービス ).


View of mid-station. Image by Flickr user Henry Lau.

The base station of the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway is conveniently located 5 minutes from the Shin-Kobe train station. From there, the gondola makes an intermediate stop at Kaze no Oka station, which is located at the bottom of the Herb Garden. From Kaze no Oka, passengers can access hiking trails leading to Mount Maya and the Nunobiki waterfalls.

Lastly, the cable car reaches its destination of Nunobiki Observation Deck where tourists can experience scenic views of Kobe (and even the distant Osaka if visibility allows it). A fascinating feature regarding the ropeway is the medieval Tudor design of each station. While this is an architectural style not often seen in urban cable cars, the design fits in appropriately to the garden’s naturalistic and serene ambiance.

The Ninokobe Herb Garden Observatory Deck. Image by Flickr user Manish Prabhune

The Ninokobe Observatory Deck. Image by Flickr user Manish Prabhune.

All the gondola’s 69 cabins are composed of glass around all sides allowing for panoramic vistas of the garden and city at day or night, making the trip up to the destination just as exciting as the actual destination. The ropeway has been a premiere attraction in Kobe for nearly 3 decades now and demonstrates once again how urban gondola technology can enhance visitor experience and satisfaction.

Year opened (upgraded) 1991 (2011)
Length (km) 1.5
Trip Time (minutes) 6.5-10
Stations 3
Capacity (pphpd) 1,800
Speed (m/s) 4
Fare both ways (Yen) 1,400
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