Elevated cable car systems – colloquially known as gondolas – are more closely associated with ski towns than urban centers. But the Bolivian cities of El Alto and La Paz, situated high in the Andes mountains, have proven that a metro in the sky can actually be an attractive option for commuters. The 1.8 million residents of these adjacent cities have been using three skyway lines built over the past two years which span over 6.2 miles. At a flat rate of only three bolivianos ($0.40), the ride costs 40% less than bus fare. President Evo Morales recently announced a US$ 450 million plan to build six more lines that would enable the tram network to service 27,000 passengers an hour.
Cable cars are just one example of unconventional ideas that Morales has brought forth. Seven years after he expelled American DEA agents and their heavy-handed tactics from Bolivia, he is receiving plaudits for convincing the country’s coca growing unions (of which he was formerly a card-carrying member) to reduce cultivation of the illicit crop, without violence. His ruling Movement for Socialism party now aims to repeal term-limit requirements and pave the way for Mr. Morales to run for re-election indefinitely. Expect a variety of similarly enticing public spectacles to be announced ahead of Bolivia’s next presidential election in 2019.