An Aerial Tramway Yields Benefits on the Ground -

TransMiCable, a cable car system in Bogotá’s poorest neighborhood, is improving the lives of residents in many ways—including an increased sense of safety, appreciation of local history, greater accessibility, and job opportunities.

Text by Inaê Riveras. Photos by Luis Ángel and Armando Gallardo.

Community leader María Tránsito Molina, 62, and her grandson Kevin Aguirre, 12.



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Lady Cacais, 28, had been struggling to make ends meet when she made the decision to move to Ciudad Bolívar. Here she will pay less than half the rent she was paying in a different location—though it was close to her work.

Commuting via cable cars was an important factor in the relocation. The system cuts her travel time to the main bus terminal to less than 20 minutes from 90 minutes earlier, on a bus.

“If it wasn’t for [TransMiCable], I don’t think we would move. The transportation here was complicated,” says Cacais as she and her son, Christian, 9, make their last trip (in a cable car) to bring their belongings.

In her backpack, she carries the last member of the family to arrive in the new house.

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The installation of a distinctive transportation system in Ciudad Bolívar has boosted the number of visitors to the district. Tourists from other parts of Bogotá and from across Colombia—as well as from other countries—are now heading to the neighborhood to check out the cable cars and go for a ride.

Ciudad Bolívar resident Angie Morales, 23, sees this as an opportunity to increase her income—and expand her horizons. Morales now works as a tour guide on weekends, sharing her lifelong knowledge of the neighborhood with visitors.

“I take them to see murals, historic landmarks, and we end at the terrace,” she says.

Encouraged by the new prospect, Morales now plans to study a second language.

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When John Velásquez, 39, heard that the construction of TransMiCable was about to start, he realized it was time to open his own business. After securing a small house in front the main station, he turned it into a coffee shop and hired someone to manage it, since he had moved away from Ciudad Bolívar.

What happened, though, was not quite what he predicted.

“After two months, the business was doing so well that I decided to quit my job and move back,” says Velásquez, in-between fulfilling customers’ requests for empanadas. He now makes enough money from the coffee shop to support his wife and two children.

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For Maria Teresa Beto, leaving the house where she and her husband raised their children was not an easy process. Her family was one of 450 households that had to be resettled because of the construction of TransMiCable. One pillar sustaining the cables is now where her previous home used to be.

“We spent 32 years there. It sometimes feels like 32,000 years,” says Beto, who moved with her husband, a daughter, and three grandchildren into a home further down the same street where they used to live.

She says the new home cost more than what the family was compensated for but that it has substantially improved their living conditions. “There’s no comparison. This is a real house.”

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Like every working mom, Yasmin Reyes, 28, often felt torn between working long hours to support her family and spending time with her children. Her circumstances were especially difficult because she was required to travel each day to a different place and work late, all without the assurance of a stable income.

Reyes now has a formal job, cleaning TransMiCable stations.

“My job benefits my family in many ways. I can walk to work, get home sooner after an eight-hour shift, and feel closer to my three kids,” she says.

The operation of TransMiCable has created about 180 jobs—many of them for local residents like Reyes.

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TransMiCable’s Mirador del Paraiso station—built in a place once known for high levels of crime—is now a lively, modern-looking area that serves as a meeting point for students going on cultural tours organized by local foundations.

Ciudad Bolívar resident Brandon Barahona, 9, likes to tag along on these tours—whenever he doesn’t have homework.

“These recreational outings are fun because we learn about the history of where we live,” the fourth-grader says. Because his school is right in the neighborhood, he takes TransMiCable only occasionally, when he needs “to go with Dad to important places.”

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At first, Yolanda Barquero’s job—assuring that cable car users respect the equipment and follow instructions—sounds like a real challenge. But now that riders are becoming familiar with the new system, she spends most of her time greeting passengers—with a smile.

“People respect TransMiCable because they’re so thankful [for the service]. At the beginning, we would ask them to balance the weight in the car. Now, not even that,” 43-years-old Barquero says.

She’s also pleased whenever a rider asks if the area is safe. Her typical answer? “This is not dangerous at all anymore. Police are always here so people can visit in peace.”

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Many buses running on the streets of Bogotá are wheelchair accessible—but that doesn’t mean people with disabilities riding on them are trouble-free.

“It used to be very complicated to get to the main terminal. Buses were often crowded, and not everyone respects people with disabilities,” says Alexander Garcia, 35, who uses a wheelchair.

TransMiCable cars’ seats lift to accommodate wheelchairs, and the speed of the entire system is lowered when a wheelchair user is boarding. “Here, we take priority, and people do respect us,” he says.

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Not long ago, 19-year-old Lady Vanegas witnessed a robbery on the local bus she was riding. For her, the security of TransMiCable is just as much of a benefit as the way the cable car has cut her commute time. “I feel much safer here,” she says.

TransMiCable’s Tunal station is completely integrated with the Transmilenio bus terminal. From there, most users continue their trips to other areas of Bogotá—for the price of one ticket. Because some areas between the two stations are exclusive to system riders, the risk of robbery is much lower, Vanegas says.

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Michael Rojas, 24, had one objective when he brought together a group of artist friends in 2016: show “all the beauty hidden” in Ciudad Bolívar to the world and its own residents. “This neighborhood was so stigmatized,” says Rojas, who also goes by Ocius26.

Since then, the artist collective—named “TheWalkers”—has created dozens of murals that have become integral to Ciudad Bolívar’s landscape. Most of them represent community leaders of the past and animals native to the area. The project, initially self-funded, is supported by TransMiCable.

“In the future, I want people to see graffiti as a tool for strengthening a community,” Rojas says.