One of the exciting things that happened in La Paz this year was the opening of the first line of the Teleferico, a massive cable car public transportation system.
Traffic in La Paz
La Paz traffic is truly terrible and the bane of many paceño’s (people from La Paz) existence. During peak hour, you’re often better off walking as large chunks of the city descend into gridlock. To make matters worse, there are three peak hours per day as many workers travel home to have lunch with their families. At these times, travelling just a few kilometers can take up to an hour or more.
To alleviate the issue, the government proposed an ambitious although expensive solution – Mi Teleferico, the world’s highest cable car system. Upon completion, it will also be the longest, with one line stretching over 4 km. Thanks to this new innovative system, commuters can now travel from the satellite city of El Alto all the way down to the south area of La Paz in minutes.
The construction is being done by an Austrian company at a cost of US$280 million. Despite the huge price tag, a one way fare only costs US$0.40, so it’s got to be running at a pretty significant loss. But having a cheap fare is essential for its viability, otherwise many Bolivians would ignore it in favor of the existing cheap bus network.
I tried out the currently operating red line with the missus’ family and loved it. The centre to El Alto takes only 10 minutes instead of the usual one and a half hours in heavy traffic. The ride was quiet, spacious, clean and of course had amazing views – pretty much the opposite of travelling by bus.
The queue at each station was massive so it’s definitely proving popular, although it was hard to tell how many of those people were genuine commuters versus those just checking it out for the first time.
The remaining two lines are scheduled to be open just in time for this year’s election which is definitely not a coincidence.