Subway in the Sky

There is a ropeway revolution going on in the Bolivian city of La Paz.  Last month, Doppelmayr won the largest lift construction contract in history to expand the region’s urban gondola network.  The government of Bolivia will pay $450 million for six new 10-passenger gondolas.  To put it in perspective, Doppelmayr’s total revenue last year was $915 million.  The company says 80% its business still comes from building lifts at ski resorts but that seems poised to change with La Paz as an urban ropeway success story.

La Paz's Yellow Line. Photo credit: Doppelmayr
La Paz’s Yellow Line. Photo credit: Doppelmayr

La Paz already has three Doppelmayr gondolas that opened last year.  They have already carried more than 16 million people.  Each line operates 17 hours per day and a ride costs less than fifty cents US.  There are 11 Uni-G terminals where passengers load and unload.  The only major incident happened when a eucalyptus tree fell on the yellow line back in February, causing a deropement and rope evacuation.

Map showing Phase I and Phase II gondola lines.
Map showing Phase I and Phase II gondola lines.

Phase II of the system will add 6 lines and 23 terminals between 2017 and 2019.  Once completed, the network will include 19 miles of gondolas spread across 9 haul ropes.  There will be a total of 34 stations and a ridiculous 1,350 CWA 10-passenger Omega cabins.

There are plenty of examples of urban ropeways scattered around the world, but no other city has gone all in on gondolas like La Paz.  It will be interesting to see if any American cities follow their example.

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