Friday, February 11, 2011

Medellin's Other Metro - Metrocable

Lots of cities have Metros. No big deal, right? Subways. Els. Even a Maglev. This is different, a Metro cable car:

Yep, just like at a snow resort, Medellin's has three different (ski) gondola-style lines that serve as part of their Metro system.

The city of Medellin is located in a large, oblong valley and it has two traditional El (Elevated or above-ground) Metro lines; one that runs along the valley floor and another one that extends from the center of the main line towards the mountain. It's a very nice, clean, and modern system that's extra-special because, unlike a subway, you get to look out over the city. At two different points on the lines (the third line extends from the end of one of the two), they've built what they call the Metrocable. This is one of the stations:

It's not what you expect Medellin to look like, is it? :-) Like I've written before, the city's nice...but back to the story...

The original idea was to bring the Metro system to communities located on the sides of the mountain where a traditional Metro would be impossible. These communities are located on such steep hillsides that even buses have a hard time getting through the winding streets. The cool thing is that these communities aren't the rich ones. They're mostly populated by the working poor who would otherwise have to travel for a long time to reach the valley floor. I think that the Metrocable motto, which is "The Metro Culture Also Lives Here", sums it up well.

This is the view of one of the stations, some of the houses and buildings on the hillside, the very-cool-looking Biblioteca EspaƱol (Spanish Library - the black cube buildings to the right of the middle cable), and the valley beyond:

The Metrocable has been in operation since 2006 and residents seem to love it. Along the route, they've created park-like environments at each of the poles that hold the system up. I saw playgrounds, parks, and even a small skatepark. The system is very well done and, I think, a point of civic pride.

A ride on the Metro currently costs 1,550 Pesos ($0.80 U.S.) and transfers between the lines, including the Metrocable, are free. It's a pretty good price when you consider that you can cross from one end of the city to the other in about 2o minutes. The other bonus of the Metrocable is the views. Everyone in the car spends the whole trip looking out the windows at the valley below. This shot towards the downtown area of Medellin was taken from the Metro line "K":

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