Post by Gondola Project
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!
— Mi Teleférico (@miteleferico) March 3, 2017
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.
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.