Adding public transit in dense, complicated urban centers normally means a hugely expensive and extremely slow undertaking—just look at New York’s Second Avenue subway, which has been underway for decades. La Paz, Bolivia, has found a better way.

Last year, La Paz—which sits high in the Andes, making construction even more difficult—began building cable car systems to link its dense urban neighborhoods well above street level. Using technology bought from an Austrian gondola company, normally found at ski resorts in the Alps, the city created the highest and longest cable car network in the world. More importantly, they did it for remarkably little money compared to tunneling underground.


Now, La Paz is going bigger with the once-experimental system. Reuters reports that the city is planning a big expansion—which will triple the number of cable lines.

AP Photo/Martin Mejia.

Whereas the current lines are designed to connect La Paz with the nearby city of El Alto, now the city wants to create a “network” of cables that will fill in the blank spaces between the stops on the three existing lines. The expansion plan is a good illustration of one major drawback of the cars: That efficiency limits the number of “stops” on a line, given that the cables keep them so high above ground level.


Still, for a cluster of cities that lie 12,000 feet above sea level, where residents must sometimes traverse steep mountain slopes to get where they’re going, the drawbacks seem to be outweighed by the benefits. For Manhattan, the verdict is still out.

Reuters; h/t Next City; Lead image AP Photo/Juan Karita.

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