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Metrocables

The Metrocables project examines the links between mobility, poverty reduction, social inclusion and urban integration.

This research project examines the links between mobility, poverty reduction, social inclusion and urban integration. It seeks to learn systematically from a critical assessment of a set of interventions fostered by the local government of Medellín, Colombia's second largest city (population 3.5 million).

Over the past decade the city's government has sought to upgrade and integrate into the city's fabric large areas marked for years by severe poverty and violence. A central component of such efforts is the introduction of two aerial cable-car lines (Metrocables) linked to the city's mass-transit (surface metro) system, thus substantially increasing accessibility for the local population while physically and symbolically integrating these previously no-go areas to the rest of the city.

The speed and comparatively low cost of construction, and low levels of particulate emissions of aerial cable-cars, are part of their appeal in dense and hilly urban areas, to the extent that the system is being considered or implemented by local governments in Colombia and elsewhere.

The research also seeks to examine the transferability of aerial cable-car technology to cities with similar topographic, institutional and socio-economic conditions in Latin America and elsewhere, including China.

The project (Research Grant RES-167-25-0562) is funded by the UK Government through the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) joint scheme for Research on International Development (Poverty Alleviation).

The purpose of the scheme is “to provide a more robust conceptual and empirical basis for development, and to enhance the quality and impact of social science research which contributes towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals”.

The research

Governance, mobility and citizenship: An overview

By focusing on a specific local government intervention centred around the innovative use of an established transport technology and people's participation in settlement upgrading, the research seeks to contribute to important on-going empirical and theoretical debates in Latin America and elsewhere in the developing world about the capacity and efficacy of local governments to reduce poverty and inequality (Rojas et al, 2008; Devas, 2001). It also examines the issue of the causal links between implementing relatively simple -though not necessarily cheap- 'technological fixes' often favoured by elected local politicians -particularly around transport- and their effectiveness in improving the material conditions of low-income urban populations, in reducing exclusion and in promoting citizenship.

Research aim

In examining the links between mobility, poverty reduction, social inclusion and urban integration, much more than technological transfer is at stake since, we argue that the Metrocable system is an urban development proposal with important political and policy implications. The considerable interest shown in the system by city authorities from different parts of the world gives practical relevance to such a proposal: it is highly likely that similar systems will be implemented in other cities. Insofar as Medellín implemented the first of this kind of interventions, the conditions and degree of success in Medellín must be investigated from different angles, but particularly from social and urban perspectives. 

Specific objectives

1. To document the economic, institutional and political factors underpinning local government intervention in the construction of two aerial cable car lines and related upgrading processes in Medellín and the extent to which, as argued in official documents, public participation was central to the success of physical upgrading
2. To outline the basic technical and financial features (including subsidisation and how this is funded) of Medellín's two aerial cable-car lines and associated urban upgrading programmes
3. To examine the effects of these interventions on mobility, quality of life, increased (or reduced) opportunities for poor women and men, girls and boys, living and working in the case study areas, and in terms of social inclusion and sense of 'citizenship'.
4. To assess the potential impact on mobility and quality of life of a cable-car system proposed for Soacha, a low-income municipality adjacent to Bogotá with similar physical and demographic features to those of Medellín's comunas, where a similar system has been planned, as well as the system's technical potential to link into Bogotá's new BRT extension into Soacha.
5. To examine the transferability of aerial cable-car technology to cities with similar topographic, institutional and socio-economic conditions both in Latin America and elsewhere, including China (a country with a high readiness to accept new technology to confront its rapidly growing urban problems).

People

University College London team

  • Prof Julio Davila. Principal Investigator. Development Planning Unit (DPU), Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment 
  • Caren Levy. Co-Investigator. Development Planning Unit (DPU), Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
  • Prof Nick Tyler. Co-Investigator. Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering
  • Diana Daste. Research assistant. Development Planning Unit (DPU), Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment

Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Medellín campus) team

  • Dr Peter C. Brand. Co-Investigator. School of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Prof Francoise Coupé. Consultant. Profesora Emérita (Sociology)
  • Professor Iván Sarmiento. Consultant. School of Civil Engineering 
  • Ángela Mejía. Consultant. Director, School of Civil Engineering
  • Laura Agudelo. Consultant. School of Civil Engineering 
  • Juan Guillermo Cardona. Research assistant
  • Jorge Eliecer Cordoba. Teacher: School of Mines

Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá) team

  • Dr Juan Pablo Bocarejo.  Co-Investigator. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 
  • Prof Jorge Acevedo. Co-Investigator. Industrial Engineering Department 
  • Nicolás Rueda. Consultant. Department of Architecture 
  • Hernando Vargas. Consultant. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Dr Diana Bocarejo.Consultant (Anthropologist). Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia 
  • María José Alvarez. Consultant (Sociologist)
  • Sebastián Velásquez. Research assistant. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 
  • Daniel Oviedo. Research assistant. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Dissemination

Please find information about the outputs and related outputs of the project by clicking on the links below. Information will be regularly made available through this website through the life of the project. Please check back regularly for further updates.

Outputs

Álvarez Rivadulla, M. J. and Bocarejo, D., 2014, "Beautifying the Slum: Cable Car Fetishism in Cazucá, Colombia"International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38: 2025–2041.

Agudelo Laura, Ángela Beatriz Mejía, Iván Sarmiento and Jorge Eliecer Córdoba, (2011) "El transporte urbano en cable incluyendo variables latentes - Caso Medellín – Colombia." Proceedings of the 10 Congreso  Colombiano de Ingeniería de Tránsito y Transporte. Medellín 5 - 7 December 2011 (Paper in Spanish) 

Brand, Peter and Julio D Dávila, 2011, "Mobility innovation at the urban margins: Medellin's Metrocables"City, Vol.15, No. 6, pp.647-661

Dávila, J. D., 2015, Intervenciones innovadoras en la promoción de un urbanismo social, in Raúl Díaz Padilla (editor), Desafíos de la gestión social del hábitat en el proceso de urbanización actual. Memorias del VI Seminario Internacional de la Cátedra UNESCO-ITESO, Guadalajara, Mexico, pp. 54-66.

Dávila, J. D., 2014, "Urban fragmentation, ‘good governance’ and the emergence of the competitive city". In S. Parnell, & S. Oldfield (Eds.), A Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South. UK: Routledge, pp. 474-486.

Dávila, J. D. 2013, (editor) Urban Mobility and Poverty: Lessons from Medellin and Soacha, Colombia. London: Development Planning Unit, UCL & Universidad Nacional de Colombia.  Published in Spanish as: Davila, J. D. (2012). (Ed.) Movilidad urbana y pobreza: Aprendizajes de Medellín y Soacha, Colombia. London: Development Planning Unit, UCL & Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Dávila, J. D. and Diana Daste, 2012, "Medellín’s aerial cable-cars: social inclusion and reduced emissions" (case study), in Cities, Decoupling and Urban Infrastructure, UNEP - IPSRM Cities Report

Dávila, Julio D and Diana Daste, 2012, "Poverty, participation and aerial cable-cars: A case study of Medellín"Proceedings of the XII N-AERUS Conference 'The City at a Human Scale', Madrid, 20-22 October (forthcoming).

Dávila, Julio D, 2011, "Can local governments reduce urban poverty? The case of Medellín, Colombia". Presentation at the conference 'Informality: Re-Viewing Latin American Cities' Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, Cambridge (17-19 February 2011)

Dávila, Julio D, 2010, "Gouvernance locale, mobilité urbaine et réduction de la pauvreté. Leçons de Medellín, Colombie", paper presented at the seminar 'Services urbains dans les Villes en Développement', SeRVeD - Laboratoire Techniques, Territoires, Sociétés, with the support of the Agence Française de Développement, Paris (9 December).

Levy, C. & Dávila, J. D., Planning for mobility and spatial justice? The case of Medellin, Colombia, in Adriana Allen, Liza Griffin and Cassidy Johnson (editors), Environmental Justice, Urbanization and Resilience in the Global South, Macmillan, UK (forthcoming 2016).

Levy, C. 2013, "Travel choice reframed: ‘Deep distribution’ and gender in urban transport"Environment and Urbanization, 25 (1): 47-63.

Related outputs

Hagans, Colin 2011, Livelihoods, location and public transport: opportunities for poverty reduction and risks of splintering urbanism in Nairobi's spatial planning. Dissertation submitted for the MSc Urban Development Planning DPU - UCL London UK

Bahl Veyom 2011, Murder capital to modern miracle? The progression of governance in Medellin, Colombia. Dissertation submitted for the MSc Urban Development Planning DPU - UCL London UK

Betancourt Morales, Ernesto 2010, 'Promoting the right to the city through a transport system? The case of Transmilenio the BRT of Bogota' Dissertation submitted for the MSc Urban Development Planning DPU - UCL London UK

Bocarejo, Juan Pablo and Oviedo Daniel, 2010 "Transport accessibillity and social exclusion: a better way  to evaluate public transport investment?". Presented at the World Conference of Transportation Research, Lisbon, July 2010. Available at the memoires of the WCTR conference, 2010

Brand, Peter, 2010, "Urbanismo social o seguridad democrática en las ciudades?", UNperiódico (Bogotá), No.131, 14 marzo, p.6. 

Brand, Peter, 2010, "El 'urbanismo social' en Medellin, Colombia", revista Arquitectura COAM (Madrid), No.359, pp. 99-104. 

Cañón-Rubiano, Leonardo 2010, 'Transport and Social Exclusion in Medellín. Potential, Opportunities and Challenges' Dissertation submitted for the Degree of MSc Urban Development Planning DPU - UCL London UK

Daste Marmolejo, Diana 2010, 'Guidelines to mainstream social inclusion in public transportation evaluations' Dissertation submitted for the MSc Social Development Practice DPU - UCL London UK

Bogota Workshop

Gobernanza, ciudadanía y los efectos políticos de los Metrocables y el mejoramiento urbano.

Factores institucionales en la planificación y la implantación del metrocable.

Los efectos de la movilidad sobre la economía local, la pobreza y la diversidad

Un enfoque integrado de desarrollo urbano: los metrocables en el contexto de las políticas urbanas y la planeación en Medellín.

Medellin workshop

Gobierno local, movilidad y reduccion de la pobreza. Lecciones de Medellin, Colombia. Julio Davila  DPU – University College London

Transporte, genero y 'la ciudad justa'. Caren Levy  DPU – University College London  

Transporte publico y accesibilidad. Nick Tyler  - Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering - University College London 

Consideraciones para institucionalizar la inclusion social en evaluaciones de sistemas de transporte. Diana Daste  DPU – University College London

Urban mobility and poverty: The Book

Dávila, Julio D. (comp.), 2012, Movilidad Urbana y Pobreza: Aprendizajes de Medellín y Soacha, Colombia, Londres: DPU, UCL y Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Dávila, Julio D (ed), 2013, Urban mobility and poverty: Lessons from Medellín and Soacha, Colombia, London: DPU, UCL and Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

You can also order a hard copy of the book from the DPU at £10 per copy plus P&P. Please email your order to dpu@ucl.ac.uk.

Abstract 

Urbanisation and globalisation have brought with them a number of challenges. The world’s population and productive activities are increasingly concentrated in cities. At the same time, disparities in income continue to rise around the world, especially in emerging economies where wealth is concentrated in ever-smaller groups. Add to this the challenges of climate change, and the need to sustainably plan and manage urban spaces, which are today larger, more diverse and more fragmented than ever before, becomes of paramount importance.

A small but growing number of cities in the Global South have successfully taken up the challenge of planning and managing urban spaces under principles of equity and sustainability. Medellín, Colombia’s second city, has emerged as an example of a set of urban interventions seeking to redress deep and long-standing social and spatial imbalances. It has done so through the use of imagination, audacity and systematic, collaborative work with communities, whilst strengthening its municipal revenue base and maintaining public ownership of key assets.

This book examines the experience of Medellín in seeking to reduce poverty and integrate large marginalised areas, marked by years of severe poverty and violence, into the urban fabric. It pays particular attention to the impact of two aerial cable-cars connecting high density hilly neighbourhoods with the rest of the city, and an associated urban upgrading programme.

It also contrasts Medellín’s successful experience with that of Soacha, a municipality adjacent to Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city, where an aerial cable-car has been proposed as a means of linking two low-income hilly neighbourhoods with a main arterial road. The contrast between a well-resourced, well-managed municipality like Medellín with a dense and homogenously poor and institutionally weak municipality like Soacha offers valuable lessons to other cities in Latin America and elsewhere.

Contributions draw from a two-year research project coordinated by the Development Planning Unit, University College London (UCL), in conjunction with Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Medellín campus) and Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. In addition to the detailed case studies of Medellín and Soacha, the book also brings together cases in Latin America where aerial cable-cars have either been built or proposed in low-income neighbourhoods, including Caracas and Rio de Janeiro.

This book is an invaluable resource for academics, urban professionals and advisors to municipal and national governments in transport, urban development and social development.

Workshops

The project was launched in September 2010 with a workshop held in Medellín. This brought together members of the teams from thethree participating institutions: UCL in London, Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Medellín campus) and Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá.

A second international workshop gathered the team in Bogota to discuss project progress in May 2011.

An international workshop to disseminate the findings of the project and share experiences with different cities of the world  was held in Medellin on December 2011. 

Some of the presentations of these workshops can be downloaded from the links below; these are available in PDF format and some of them are in their Spanish version.

International workshop

Aguilar Adrián Guillermo. Estructura Metropolitana, Movilidad Laboral y Exclusión Social. Instituto de Geografia, UNAM.

Davila Julio D. Introducción al proyecto de investigación: Taller internacional Medellin, 12 a 14 de diciembre de 2011 DPU – University College London.

Rivera Pedro. Favelas in the 21st century city, mobility infrastructure experiments and the image of the city in Rio de Janeiro. Rua arquitetos, Studio-x rio, Columbia University

Daste Diana. Iniciativas locales e intervenciones del gobierno local: Un estudio de caso en el Miocable-Cali. DPU – University College London

Brand Peter. Los Metrocables: resonancias políticas. Escuela de Planeación Urbano-Regional, Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín.

Coupé Françoise, Juan Guillermo Cardona B. Impactos en la economía local: Mercado habitacional y laboral y horizontes sociales Escuela de Planeación Urbano-Regional, Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín

Coupé Françoise, Juan Guillermo Cardona B. Consecuencias para la inclusión social: Edad, género y discapacidades Escuela de Planeación Urbano-Regional, Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín.

Coupé Françoise, Juan Guillermo Cardona B. Antecedentes institucionales y de planeación de las intervenciones urbanas en Medellín Escuela de Planeación Urbano-Regional, Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín.

Echeverri Orrego Margarita Una Lectura de la realidad social y la vida comunitaria en la zona Nororiental de la ciudad. Líder comunitaria

Arora Anvita Mobility in Urban India –challenges for equity and innovation. Innovative Transport Solutions, TBIU, IIT Delhi.

Naranjo B.Nathalie MetroCable San Agustín Caracas, Venezuela Instituto de Urbanismo FAU-UCV

Tyler Nick Transporte sostenible de alta capacidad: El Caso de Chongqing, RP China.

Brand Peter El significado social de la movilidad Escuela de Planeación Urbano-Regional, Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín.

Universidad de los Andes, Desafíos para la implementación de un sistema de cable en la zona de Cazuca - Soacha

Bogota workshop

Gobernanza, ciudadanía y los efectos políticos de los Metrocables y el mejoramiento urbano. 

Factores institucionales en la planificación y la implantación del metrocable.

Los efectos de la movilidad sobre la economía local, la pobreza y la diversidad

Un enfoque integrado de desarrollo urbano: los metrocables en el contexto de las políticas urbanas y la planeación en Medellín.

Medellin workshop

Gobierno local, movilidad y reduccion de la pobreza. Lecciones de Medellin, Colombia.  Julio Davila  DPU – University College London

Transporte, genero y 'la ciudad justa'. Caren Levy  DPU – University College London  

Transporte publico y accesibilidad. Nick Tyler  - Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering - University College London 

Consideraciones para institucionalizar la inclusion social en evaluaciones de sistemas de transporte. Diana Daste  DPU – University College London

Events

The workshop

Over 180 participated in the the international workshop "Local Governance, urban mobility and poverty reduction. Lessons from Medellin, Colombia,held in Medellin on December 12 -14. This included: 16 invited resident community leaders, 6 international commentators from Chile, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, the United States and Venezuela, 6 Colombian speakers and 24 participants from Colombia, France, Austria, Chile, Bolivia, Italy, Spain and Martinica. 99 students attended the event, most of them Colombian but with some also coming from Germany, Canada, Chile, the United States and France. The research team from the Development Planning Unit - UCL, London, UK, Universidad de los Andes Bogota, Colombia and Universidad Nacional, Medellin, Colombia were very pleased with the results of the workshop.

History

In 2004, Medellín, Colombia's second largest city, implemented the world's first modern urban aerial cable-car public transport system. As a relatively cheap, quick and highly visible response to urban transport problems, it has attracted widespread attention from city authorities throughout Latin America, as well as Europe and Asia.

The audacious use of this technology in dense and hilly low-income informal settlements was subsequently followed by major neighbourhood upgrading comprising new social housing, schools and other social infrastructure, as well as support to micro-enterprises. The combination of these two sets of interventions has helped upgrade and integrate into the city's fabric large areas marked for years by severe poverty and violence.

The international workshop shared the findings of the first systematic independent appraisal of the pioneering experience of Medellín looking to provide pointers for successful application in other cities of the world. It also reflected on the potential impact that this system might have for low-income neighbourhoods of Soacha, a municipality adjacent to Bogotá, Colombia's capital city.