Numbers Don’t Lie: La Paz’s Cable Car Report (Mi Teleférico)

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 Numbers of My Cable Car. Image by Mi Teleferico.

The Numbers of My Cable Car. Image by Mi Teleferico.

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%)
Time savings. Image by Mi Teleferico.

Time savings. Image by Mi Teleferico.

Time Savings

  • 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


Cable car revenues. Image by Mi Teleferico.

Cable car revenues. Image by Mi Teleferico.


  • >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).

Cabins for Blue and White Line are arriving soon. Image by Mi Teleferico.

Cabins for Blue and White Line are arriving soon. Image by Mi Teleferico.

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.




AJ+ on La Paz Cable Cars: “Possibly the best commute ever!”

Post by Nick Chu

We honestly couldn’t agree more! :)



Photo of the Week: Cologne Cable Car (Kölner Seilbahn)

Post by Nick Chu


A photo posted by Billy (@scholarchannel) on



How to Manage a World-Class Cable Car: Interview with Stella Kwan, Managing Director of Ngong Ping 360

Post by Nick Chu

Ever wonder what it takes to manage a world-class cable car?

As part of China Daily’s Asia Leadership Roundtable program, they sat down with Ngong Ping 360’s Managing Director, Stella Kwan, to discuss how the cable car is responding to Hong Kong’s unique set of socioeconomic conditions.

Ngong Ping 360. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Ngong Ping 360. Image by Nicholas Chu.

The interview provides great insight and lessons on what prospective cable cars proponents can expect to face and how they can overcome these challenges.

As a quick summary, Stella explains how a cable car system can be affected by both local and regional tourism trends. In particular, she highlights a few key issues that they had to confront in recent times:

  • Higher travel costs to Hong Kong due to currency exchange rates
  • Relaxed visa application processes for Chinese visitors in neighbouring countries (i.e. South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and etc). This means greater competition for the lucrative Chinese market as ~25% of its ridership is from the mainland
  • Increasing number of tourist attractions in Asia-Pacific area

Despite these challenges, the cable car was still able to attract 1.62 million riders in 2015 — bringing in an annual revenue of US$44.7 million (HK$347 million)! This perhaps shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as the cable car is a wholly owned subsidiary of one of the world’s most profitable transit agencies, MTR Corp Ltd.

To promote the cable car and remain competitive, the company has strengthened digital marketing efforts to attract more locals and corporate events.

From an operational standpoint, the Hong Kong cable car has implemented a very unique and innovative solution to address its human resource challenges.

As many operators can perhaps attest to, finding specialized ropeway technicians to operate and maintain a cable car is not the easiest task.

In a 2011 article by the South China Morning Post, the head of operations discussed how staff must undergo extensive in-house training program (takes up to 5 years) before they gain the skills necessary to oversee operations.

To address this skill shortage, Ngong Ping 360 set up a 2-year Cable Car Technology course in 2014 to train the next generation of local ropeway technicians. The course, which is recognized by the Hong Kong administration, so far appears to be a success as the system has subsequently hired several of its graduates.

All in all, Stella goes into more details on other strategies the cable car has employed to maintain its competitiveness and provides valuable advice for youngsters looking to start a career in the tourism industry.

Click here for the full article.




Photo of the Week: Vinpearl Cable Car

Post by Nick Chu



Berlin’s Urban Ropeway Chugging Along (International Horticultural Exhibition / IGA 2017)

Post by Nick Chu

Exactly one year today, the International Horticultural Exhibition/IGA 2017 (German: Internationale Gartenausstellung 2017) in Berlin, Germany will begin.

To meet the upcoming deadline, construction work on the event and its cable car system has made significant headways. Just last month the gondola lift, built by LEITNER Ropeway, broke ground and yesterday, online media suggests that a half dozen towers have already been erected.

Photos from ski and rail forums in Germany confirm that civil and station infrastructure works is well underway.

Station and civil works and tower. Image by Bahnstern.

Station and tower. Image by Bahnstern.

Tower. Image by Bernstern.

First support tower. Image by Bernstern.

Tower. Image by Bahnstern.

Another support tower. Image by Bahnstern.

The 1.5km, 3 station urban cable car will be connected to the city’s U5 subway. This will not only enhance the system’s integration with rapid transit but also improve sustainable transport options for visitors.

For those who wish to continue tracking the system’s construction, you might not want to blink.

By the end of April, electromechanical components for the stations and towers are planned for completion. Subsequently, the cable will be strung and the cabins will be mounted. If there aren’t any bumps in the road, system testing will begin in the summer!

This incredibly quick turn around time is definitely a reminder of the speeds that are possible for urban gondola construction — a massive advantage for cities looking to install and improve their urban transport systems in a short period of time.

If you happen to live in or pass by Berlin, free tours of the construction site are offered every third Thursday of each month. And believe it or not, a live webcam is installed on site so fans worldwide can follow along from the comforts of their own home. Super cool!



Doppelmayr’s Innovative Recovery Concept – Unmatched Passenger Safety and Comfort

Post by Advertorial Team

As we’ve pointed out before, gondolas are the safest form of transport in the world. Whether it’s data from United States, France or the Swiss Alps, cable cars have demonstrated their ability to transport riders in the most extreme topographical and meteorological conditions with unmatched safety and comfort.

Despite its high safety record, Doppelmayr – the global leader in urban gondolas with worldwide facilities and sales teams – has continued to advance and improve the technology to greater levels of quality and excellence.

In recent times, the company has designed an innovative safety feature called the Recovery Concept.

Koblenz Cable Car is equipped with the Recovery Concept to maximize safety.

The Recovery Concept is a series of redundant drive-line systems that ensures the cabins will return to a station in the event of a mechanical or electrical failure of the primary drive-line.

While there have always been backup drive-lines for aerial ropeway installations, the world’s first detachable gondola supported by the Recovery Concept was installed in the Grasjochbahn 8-passenger gondola (Silvretta Montafon, Voralberg, Austria) in 2011.

Grasjoch 8-passenger gondola. Image by Doppelmayr.

Grasjoch 8-passenger gondola. Image by Doppelmayr.

“With Doppelmayr’s Recovery Concept, dramatic and expensive rescues are no longer necessary. Cabins with passengers remain comfortably intact and would simply be returned to the station with one of the Concept’s alternative drive mechanisms,” says Tom Sanford, VP Sales of Doppelmayr USA.

Doppelmayr Recovery Concept. Image by Doppelmayr.

Recovery Concept. Image by Doppelmayr.

Major features of this system include:

  • Main drive mechanism has an auxiliary motor in case of primary motor failure
  • Coupling can be detached from bullwheel to allow emergency drives to take over in case both primary and auxiliary motors fail
  • Each bullwheel is equipped with an emergency bearing allowing rotational movement between emergency drives on either side
  • Special tools installed which lifts the cable back to normal position in case of derailment
  • Special tools, such as permanent crane facilities, to remove blocked cabins

“We’ll never completely eliminate the need for rope rescues but, with Doppelmayr’s Recovery Concept, nearly all of them are now prevented,” says Sanford.


Application to Urban Gondolas

Already the Recovery Concept has been installed in several high-profile urban cable cars including the Koblenz Cable Car (Germany), and the Emirates Air Line Cable Car (UK).

Emirates Air Line Cable Car built with the Recovery Concept. Two independent emergency drives and recovery equipment on top of each tower means passengers can stay in cabins during emergencies.

“We think this concept is a must-have for cities installing ropeways as public transportation” says Sanford.

As the performance and passenger requirements of public transit is immensely demanding, the Recovery Concept can help strengthen Cable Propelled Transit’s position as the world’s safest urban transport modality.

You can learn more about Doppelmayr and urban applications of its ropeways here.


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