Metrocable (Medellín)

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CharacterGondola lift
LocationMedellín, Colombia
Open2004 (Line K)
OperatorMetro de Medellín
Technical features
Line length2,072 m (6,798 ft) (Line K)
Operating speed10 miles per hour (16 km/h)
Noteselevation: 399 m (1,309 ft)
Electric motor powering cable bullwheel

Metrocable is a gondola lift system implemented by the City Council of Medellín, Colombia, with the purpose of providing a complementary transportation service to that of Medellín's Metro. It was designed to reach some of the city's informal settlements on the steep hills that mark its topography. It is largely considered to be the first urban cable propelled transit system in South America.[1] There were plans in the city for some decades before its inception for some form of transportation that took account of the difficult topography of the region. These ideas date back to the use of cable-car technology for exporting coffee starting in the 1930s between the city of Manizales, to the south of Medellín, and the Cauca River 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) below. In its modern incarnation, it was the result of a joint effort between the city's elected mayor, Sergio Fajardo, and the Metro Company.[2] For some, the initial conception of this system was indirectly inspired by the Caracas Aerial Tramway (also known as the Mount Avila Gondola) which was designed primarily to carry passengers to a luxury hotel in the 1950s.

Line K of the Metrocable connecting the Medellín River valley to the steep hills in Comunas (districts) 1 and 2, was the first system in the world dedicated to public transport, with a fixed service schedule. Since starting operations in 2004, it carries 30,000 people daily and is operationally integrated into the rest of Medellín's mass transit system, which includes the overground Metro, bus rapid transit system (BRT) and a tramway line (opened in 2016).

As of 2018, the Medellín Metrocable system contained four lines, namely Line H, Line K, Line J, Line L (Cable Arvi) and recently open in 2019. Overall, the system has been received with enthusiasm by the locals, who are mainly low-income users and are prepared to queue for up to 45 minutes at peak times to use it.[3] There is a rapidly growing number of similar systems in cities in Latin America (Metrocable (Caracas), Mi Teleférico (La Paz), Manizales, Cali, TransMiCable (Bogotá), Mexicable near Mexico City[4], among others) and elsewhere.


Medellín is located in the Aburrá Valley and is surrounded by hills. Many of those hills are home to underdeveloped barrios (asentamientos informales), which due to their location cannot be reached by Medellín's biggest mass transportation system Metro. Many of these barrios are in fact located in very steep grounds to the extent that not even a regular bus system could be either useful or commercially profitable. Before the implementation of the Metrocable Line K, residents of the Santo Domingo Savio barrio spent upwards of 2​12 hours commuting to work each way.

The Metrocable system is a branch of Medellín's metro and it is managed by the corporation Metro of Medellín. The system uses Monocable Detachable Gondola technology which consists of cable cars connected to a fixed cable through means of a detachable grip. The haulage cable is pulled by large wheels allowing the cabins to move at an average speed of 10 miles per hour (16 km/h).

The system was built by the French company Poma.


Villa Sierra station, the eastern terminus of the H Line.

At the present time four Metrocable lines have been opened - Line H, Line J, Line K and Line L.

Line K[edit]

Line K was the initial line that was built and was first opened in 2004. It has a length of 2.07 km and contains the following four stations: Acevedo, Andalucia, Popular, and Santo Domingo.

Construction costs are estimated at $26 million USD.[5]

Line J[edit]

Soon after officials saw the enormous success of Line K, plans to proceed with another line - Line J - was immediately on the table. It officially opened in 2008.[6] Similar to Line K, it also has four stations: San Javier, Juan XXIII, Vallejuelos and La Aurora. The entire length of Line J runs along 2.7 km of cable.

Line L[edit]

Line L does not serve communal areas, rather, it is a tourist-oriented line which is connected to Arví Park and is part of a social project to bring retreats and nature to the masses.[7] Passengers must pay an extra fare - 5,200 Colombian Pesos ($2 USD approx.) to ride this line.

It is connected to Line K's terminus station - Santo Domingo. It is also expected that this new line will help promote and develop tourism in the rural areas around Lake Guarne. It will take 14 minutes to ascend to El Tambo and there will be no intermediate stations.

Line H[edit]

Line H was opened in 2016. It has a length of 1.4 km and includes three stations: Oriente, Las Torres and Villa Sierra. The demand is estimated at 1,800 passengers per hour (compared with 3,000 for Line K). In Oriente station, it connects to the Ayacucho Tram line, which in turns is connected to Line A of the overground metro system.

Public transit[edit]

View of the metrocable crossing the Medellín river

Aerial lifts are not often used as a mass transportation system, although they can be used as such. However, they are becoming more popular with examples which include the Metrocable system in Caracas, Venezuela, the Mexicable system in Ecatepec, Mexico, the Mi Teleférico system in La Paz, Bolivia, the Teleférico do Alemão in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (currently closed),[8][9] and, in the United States, the Roosevelt Island Tramway in New York City and the Portland Aerial Tram in Portland, Oregon.

While gondolas used as transit offer many advantages such as the ability of build on terrain that precludes other surface transportations, cost-effectiveness, low emissions and energy efficiency, one of the disadvantages of gondolas is the risk of power outages. In case of a hazard or an emergency it is not possible to exit the cabins. However, Medellín Metro is ameliorating this problem by providing a communication system in every vehicle should an emergency occur.

Studies have suggested strong correlations between the intervention of the Metrocables and dramatic reductions in crime associated with the areas where Medellín Metrocable has been introduced.[10]


  1. ^ The Gondola Project Archived 2015-09-21 at the Wayback Machine Medellin/Caracas, Part 1 - Retrieved on 2010-03-14
  2. ^ Dávila, JD (ed.), 2013, Urban Mobility and Poverty: Lessons from Medellin and Soacha, Colombia, UCL and Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
  3. ^ Brand, P and Dávila, JD, 2011, Mobility innovation at the urban margins, City 15:6, 647-661.
  4. ^ Burnett, V, 2017, Near Mexico City, cable car lets commuters glide over traffic, New York Times (28 December).
  5. ^ The Gondola Project Medellin/Caracas, Part 2 - Retrieved on 2010-03-12
  6. ^ The Gondola Project[permanent dead link] Medellin/Caracas, Part 3 - Retrieved on 2010-03-14
  7. ^ The Gondola Project Medellin/Caracas, Part 4 - Retrieved on 2010-03-15
  8. ^ Sports Features President of Rio 2016 visits Complexo do Alemao cable car system - Retrieved on 2010-12-24
  9. ^ "Rio to Open Urban Gondola System This Year". The Gondola Project. Retrieved March 9, 2011. Includes route overview.
  10. ^ Cerdá, M; Morenoff, JD; Hansen, BB; Tessari Hicks, KJ; Duque, LF; Restrepo, A; Diez-Roux, AV (2012). "Reducing violence by transforming neighborhoods: a natural experiment in Medellín, Colombia". Am. J. Epidemiol. 175: 1045–53. doi:10.1093/aje/kwr428. PMC 3353133. PMID 22472117.

See also[edit]

Media related to Metrocable at Wikimedia Commons