As home to the world’s largest urban ropeway infrastructure, the Bolivian capital city of La Paz has seen an increase in quality of life since the ropeway system was put into service. The system, which includes ten lines in place throughout the city and a nearby suburb, with a full interconnected network of 26 stations and 30 kilometers of extension, has been fully functional since 2019, and serves around 300,000 passengers annually.
Though the ropeway system is a unique form of public transportation, it responds well to La Paz’s unique needs. Already located at an elevation of 3,000 meters above sea level, the city of two million people sees a nearly 1,000 meter increase in altitude from the city center to one of its more popular residential districts. Traversing the mountainous region by bus has proven quite difficult due to the long and winding roads with steep inclines. When congestion at a peak in the late 2000s, the city explored all options for expanding mobility and found that building a subway system would not have been possible while adding BRT would have proved difficult due to the altitude and narrow roadways.
Enter the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group, makers of over 15,400 ropeway systems in 96 countries around the world. Torsten Bäuerlen, the project manager responsible for realizing the ropeways in Bolivia, spoke to the Talking Transport Transformation podcast about the project and how the cable cars have worked to expand e-mobility in La Paz while alleviating some of the headaches that the city had faced in recent years. Though each car can only carry 10 passengers at a time, it attracts people from all walks of life, adding an element of social cohesion to the community. And the project has seen such great success that it’s drawn attention from around the globe.
At the same time, constructing ropeway systems can prove to be more challenging than other public transport options, as each station requires its own construction site and negotiations with landowners. In La Paz, the city’s density likewise posed a dilemma when it came to determining how to integrate the stations into an already existent ecosphere. Yet since it’s gone into service, the ropeway system has done wonders to enhancing the quality of life in the neighborhoods where stations are located. In the end, the ropeway system has paid off tremendously by making jobs more accessible, creating spaces for public services, and making more of the population mobile. It’s a model for other cities, especially those located in mountainous or hard-to-reach regions. To hear more about the Bolivian ropeway system and its construction, check out our episode with Torsten online.