Cable cars in urban transport: Travel time savings from La Paz-El Alto (Bolivia)

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - south america, place - urban, mode - other, planning - surveys, planning - service improvement, ridership - commuting


cable cars, urban public transport, mobility survey, commuting time


Recently cable cars have come to be considered as an urban transport alternative in many cities. After the successful implementation of Metrocable in Medellin, Colombia, in 2004, other Latin American cities developed projects to incorporate cable cars as part of their public transport network. The system in La Paz and El Alto is the longest urban cable car network in the world. It connects two geographically complex areas with about two million inhabitants and high rates of poverty. This paper provides quantitative evidence of the effect of the La Paz–EL Alto cable car on users’ commuting time, which may have an important impact on many dimensions of people's lives. Because cable cars have only recently been used for urban transit, literature on the subject is scarce. No paper has addressed the case of La Paz and El Alto in Bolivia, as most previous studies have focused on anecdotical information of the case of Medellin. From a mobility survey carried out in La Paz-El Alto, we compare the average commuting travel times of using cable cars (treatment group) over other transport modes (control group). We estimate that travel by cable car cuts commuting times by an average of 22% over other transport modes. This translates into a daily reduction of nine minutes in travel time and an average net benefit of US$0.58 per commute. The effect holds across the distribution of commuting times: No matter how short or long the commute, it takes less time when the cable car network is used.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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