Post by Nick Chu
This past week, the Mi Teleférico (English: My Cable Car) network in La Paz-El Alto, Bolivia celebrated its 2nd birthday in grand fashion with music and live performances.
Despite its relatively short existence, the world’s largest network of urban cable cars has reached heights never achieved before by any other gondola line (figuratively speaking, the record for world’s highest passenger ropeway belongs to the Doppelmayr-built Dagu Glacier Gondola in China).
To highlight their achievements, the operators released a report called, Los Números de Mi Teleférico (English: The Numbers of My Cable Car).
The 92-page report is written in Spanish but with the help of colourful visuals and Google Translate, I’ve been able to summarize some of the main points most relevant to city-planning folks.
Passengers and Urban Mobility
- 43,248,826 passenger trips between May 29, 2014 to March 31, 2016 (22 months)
- ~60,000 riders per day with a daily network record ridership of 162,465
- At 10km (3 lines), it would be tied with the Newark Light Rail as one of America’s shortest American rapid transit lines. However, it transports more daily passengers than 72% (26) of Light Rail Transit/Streetcar systems in the US
- 6,500 daily boardings per kilometre. In comparison, this mean that Mi Teleférico’s average daily boardings per kilometre is 17% greater than the highest average daily boardings per kilometre for LRTs in the US (Boston’s MBTA light rail: 5,368)
- 99.3% availability (Red Line: 99.4%, Yellow Line: 99.2%, Green Line: 99.3%)
- 652 million minutes (2015)
- 453,000 days a year (2015)
- 1,200 years (2015)
Safety and Health
- 312ppm (cable car) vs. 1021ppm (minibus) — carbon dioxide levels in vehicles
- 59.3 decibels (cable car) vs 68.3 decibels (minibus) — noise levels in vehicles
- 2 accidents on cable car (due to falling tree and user behaviour) vs. 9,181 traffic accidents in La Paz (2015)
- 3 million litres of gasoline saved per year
- 8,000 tons of emissions prevented
- 1,129 trees planted in phase 1
- >100% farebox recovery ratio / 0% subsidy. Median farebox recovery ratio in US stands at ~35%
- ~US$21 million in revenue (Bs150 million)
- ~US$500,000 in tax contributions (Bs3.6 million)
- ~US$1.3 million in advertising revenue (Bs8.9million)
- 1397 direct jobs generated
- 4899 indirect jobs generated
As you could probably tell, the numbers above is merely a brief summary of the report. But if you’re interested, the 92-page report is actually a very enjoyable read (even for those who aren’t familiar with Spanish).
In the face of these telling numbers, some cynics have argued there are more pressing concerns in La Paz-El Alto that the government hasn’t addressed. While that is true to a certain degree, there’s no denying that Mi Teleférico is a smashing success.
As somewhat of a crude but somewhat accurate measurement, the system’s popularity and online following is massive with close to 170,000 likes on Facebook. This completely trumps what is found on other Facebook pages of major transit agencies: Toronto Transit Commission (12,200 likes); New York’s MTA (57,600 likes); and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (122,500 likes).
It’s still incredible to see how in less than a decade, gondolas have transitioned from being a relatively “niche” public transit technology, to having an entire city build its transit backbone with Cable Propelled Transit (CPT).
And remember, it doesn’t end here. The city is continuing to blaze new trails and is ready to open 7 more lines in the upcoming future. This brings the entire city’s gondola network length to more than 30km! In fact, the Blue Line (Linea Azul) and White Line (Linea Blanca) is estimated to be 70-75% complete as of early April 2016.
Overall, these stats help reinforce what many in the ropeway industry already know — that is, cable car technology is amongst the safest, fastest, and most reliable transportation systems in existence.