Climate Change: Cable Car Metro in Medellin, Colombia

Imagine riding high above the hills as you start your morning commute. With the busy traffic and  small communities under your feet, the ride is smooth, quick and cheap. This is the idea behind the Cable Cars Metro project constructed in Medellin, Colombia. Operated by Empresa de Transporte Masivo del Valle de Aburrá Ltda (ETMVA), the project envisioned the installation of six cable cars which would be connected to the local metro, providing a mass transit option in the hilly town.

Four of the six cable cars have already been built. Lines K, J, Arvi and Centro Occidental connect with the metro at various points, allowing hassle free and safe transit, which also cuts greenhouse gas emissions. The last three cable cars are yet to be constructed, but will contribute to current reduction of 20,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

Saving the Environment

The town of Medellin is surrounded by hills where steep roads, crowded houses (that are often constructed illegally), high pollution and never ending traffic is common staple. This project has contributed to the decline of pollutants such as: particulate matter (PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), resulting in less ozone formulation and overall global GHG release.

The global environment is not the only party that received a boost from the project. The local community, where the cable cars were constructed, experienced a positive impact as well. Due to a decrease in local bus usage, which was old and released much exhaust, the new form of transit helps minimize the number of car accidents.  It also lowers the probability of individuals suffering from respiratory disease thanks to improved air quality.

Without a doubt, the local community is most excited about the social benefits this project has brought them. The addition of foot bridges (which make crossing from one neighborhood to the other much easier),  computer centers (where students can do homework), and decline in gang activity, has significantly improved local living conditions. Of course, the creation of new job opportunities has played a big influence, adding new sources of income and giving the locals something to be proud of.

The reason this project has been such a success lies in its preparation process, in which local stakeholders were extensively included. Individuals who had to be displaced due to construction signed agreements with the municipality, ensuring that all members were taken care of.

Innovation Risks

As is true with any innovative idea, the high moving cable cars were not always seen so favorable. By being unique, it is the first mass transit cable car system of its kind, meant the community required an adjustment period. Even today, some locals still prefer the use of buses and taxis, restraining the community from even further GHG reductions.

A second barrier lies in the corruption woes of the ETMVA. Plagued by the cost and length of its previous project, the construction of the local metro, the ETMVA faced investment barriers, as not many investors wanted to donate to a company faced with lawsuits. In addition, the construction of the fist cable car route also experienced higher costs than predicted. A whopping 1.28 million USD  in additional costs, which made questions of corruption impossible to ignore.

The last barrier relates to the new technology required in building such a mass scale transport system, many kilometers above the ground. The questions of safety, maintenance and operation of these cable cars required a lengthy period before being approved. Nonetheless, the fact that all cable cars operate in the same manner, with a maximum capacity of 10 individuals in one car, the success of this transit system can be easily duplicated in other cities and countries. In fact, countries such as Panama and Brasil have already asked Colombia for consultation and aid with their own cable car projects.

Baselines

It is without a doubt that the construction of this small scale project has had many positive influences on this Colombian community. The better quality of life, thanks to less traffic accidents and costs, has also made Medellin more green. The area in which it was constructed is quite poor, but since the completion of the project and reduction of GHG emissions, a more tranquil and sustainable way of life has emerged.

Keeping in mind that Medellin is not located in the coast line of the country, and does not face immediate climate change effects, its long-term contribution to the community is more than likely. The fact that the neighborhood is not located next to great bodies of water or glaciers means that no direct negative impact will harm the project. In fact, the construction of these sustainability projects tries to mitigate any major negative impacts Colombia might face in the future.

This success story is nicely summarized in a video report that can be seen here:
Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

References:

CDM. (2009). “Cable Cars Metro Medellin, Colombia.” UNFCCC. Accessed February 16, 2012 from: http://cdm.unfccc.int/filestorage/Q/F/2/QF27NA6PO8DWXEKUYHT314RJC9MISG/PDD.pdf?t=Y2l8bHpodnczfDAaQduBZB61oEMUNj5z4Xi8

Gjelten, Tom. (2009). “Climate Change Poses Threat to Colombian Coast.” NPR. Accessed on February 16, 2012 from: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121426071

Unknown. (2011). “Eco-friendly transport in Colombia.” Deutsche Welle. Accessed February 16, 2012 from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu1Bm4v18C4&feature=player_embedded#!

 


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