Contrary to popular belief, gondolas aren’t limited to ski resorts — in the past two decades, more cities around the world have implemented cable cars as part of their public transit systems. Cable cars are not only more affordable to build, but they’re also eco-friendly, powered by electricity to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Cable cars are also a highly efficient mode of transportation for mountainous cities and have increased urban mobility for residents who live in inaccessible places. Here are 12 cities that use innovative gondola systems to get around.
The Medellín Metrocable is often credited with dramatically transforming the capital of Antioquia province in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. In 2004, when cable cars were first implemented as a way to connect the more isolated parts of the city, Medellín was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It also had a dysfunctional public transportation system, as millions of its residents lived on steep hills and were forced to take multiple buses in order to access the city center.
Thanks to the new network of cable cars, these city residents suddenly had access to work opportunities, educational systems, and medical care. Since installing the transportation system, Medellín has won an innovation award in recognition of its radical transformation, with many of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods turning into thriving communities. Today, the city has four cable car lines, with multiple stops that allow people to travel to disparate parts of the city for a mere 80 centavos.
Situated in a mountainous region of North Africa, Constantine, Algeria, relies on an urban cable car to transport citizens throughout the city. Prior to the line’s construction, commuters most often traveled through Constantine via a vast network of bridges. These bridges posed a problem, however, as rapid growth resulted in clogged roadways, making inner-city travel a grueling experience.
The solution was the installation of Télécabine de Constantine, a one-mile-long cable-car line that allowed residents in Constantine’s northern section to traverse the city in seven minutes. The cable car’s three stops include Terrain Tannoudji, Place Tatache, and Ben Badis Hospital, the latter of which allows 5,000 hospital employees to easily access their place of work.
The cable cars carry 33 people in each cabin and have a capacity for 2,400 commuters per hour, allowing residents to effortlessly bypass the congested streets of Constantine while also crossing Oued Rhumel, the largest river in the region.
La Paz, Bolivia
Known as “Mi Teleférico,” which translates to “My Cable Car” in Spanish, La Paz’s cable-car system is an incredible way to navigate this sprawling city. When it opened in 2014, Mi Teleférico became the longest and highest urban cable-car system in the world, stretching six miles in length and reaching 13,100 feet above sea level. With 32 stations and 10 cable-car lines, the transportation system is not only massive, but it’s also functional and beloved by residents and visitors alike.
As the highest capital city in the world, La Paz has numerous mountainous roads, which make commuting a difficult endeavor. Prior to the installation of the cable cars, the Andean city’s main transportation route was a congested highway that caused noise and air pollution. Today, these popular cable car routes provide access to the city’s three major zones at a cost of 33 pesos ($4.79 USD), while giving passengers breathtaking views of the skyline and the nearby Andes Mountains.
In an effort to minimize traffic congestion in Ankara, Turkey, the Ankara Cable Car was conceptualized in 2012. The project was completed in two years and became so popular that it was extended in 2015, only a year after its initial opening. As the longest urban gondola on the Eurasian continent, the 1.9-mile-long cable-car system connects the hillside towns of Şentepe and Yenimahalle to downtown Ankara.
Built to complement the city’s public transit system, the cable-car network was thoughtfully designed so as not to further clog city streets. With four stations in total, some of which are integrated with the Ankara Metro, the urban gondola allows for effortless commuting. Since the cable car is completely free of charge, it’s become a very popular means of transportation, with citizens often choosing to ride the gondola just for fun.
As the Veneuzuelan capital of Caracas is surrounded by the Andes, many residents were unable to commute safely into the city from their higher-altitude homes. But this problem was remedied with the addition of the Metrocable in 2010, a cable-car system that was inspired by the success of the Medellín Metrocable.
Since its opening, the Metrocable has provided safe transportation from the neighborhood of San Agustín into the valley. Not only do the cable cars offer access to libraries, daycares, police stations, and grocery stores, but the cable-car stations house important amenities, including health clinics and gyms. Since the gondolas connect to the city’s metro lines, the addition of the Metrocable has resulted in a well-rounded and safer public transit system and has generally improved infrastructure in formerly inaccessible areas of Caracas.
The Singapore Cable Car conveniently allows travelers to access some of the city’s most popular spots while offering incredible views from above. With two separate lines that allow for transfers, travelers can visit Mount Faber, the HarbourFront, and the island of Sentosa with a single round-trip ticket. Such a journey will take approximately 40 to 45 minutes, depending on weather and speed, with each cable car accommodating up to five passengers.
The Mount Faber line begins on Sentosa and travels to the peak’s summit, located 328 feet above sea level, where travelers are treated to unbeatable views of the harbor and city skyline. A connection between the Mount Faber line to the Sentosa line can be made at Imbiah Lookout; named for the island it traverses, the Sentosa line provides a 360-degree view of the island’s jungle. For an extra-special journey, visitors can reserve dining cable cars, which serve champagne, Singaporean dishes, and Japanese fare.
As the economical capital of Ecuador, the port city of Guayaquil recently experienced rapid growth that the city’s public transit could not fully accommodate. In an effort to allow city residents to commute from the neighboring town of Duran into Guayaquil and relieve congestion, a 2.5-mile-long cable-car system was constructed.
Known as Aerovia Guayaquil, the aerial public transit system opened in 2020 and is able to transport up to 40,000 passengers every day. To connect the two cities, the gondola cars pass over buildings and cross a wide river — a journey that requires a mere 17 minutes. By contrast, commuters from Duran used to ride a bus that was a minimum of 45 minutes and often took longer with traffic. To make the cable car journey even more special, art has been installed on billboards along the way, treating passengers to an aerial art gallery on their daily commute.
The Greek island of Santorini is famous for its whitewashed, domed steeples and cliffside abodes that overlook the azure sea. However, Santorini’s infrastructure has historically made it difficult to reach — visitors who wish to access the island’s villages must either climb a winding staircase or ride a mule to the top.
In the 1970s, locals decided to install a cable-car system to make their island appealing to visitors who preferred a more convenient way of traveling. Since then, the Santorini Cable Car in the old port capital of Fira has transported passengers up the island’s steep cliffs in a three-minute journey, carrying up to 1,200 people per hour. The proceeds from the cable car are divided among local communities, with significant portions given to mule drivers to offset the loss of business.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro’s public transit cable car, Teleférico do Alemão, opened in 2011 as part of a plan to improve the city’s infrastructure. Built to connect the city’s poorest neighborhoods (also known as favelas) to Rio de Janeiro’s rail network, the cable-car system is vast, with six stations over the course of 2.2 miles. Each rooftop station also doubles as a community center, with banks, stores, and social services made available to residents.
Citizens of Rio de Janeiro are eligible for two free rides every day on the cable car’s 16-minute journey across the city. Able to accommodate 3,000 commuters per hour, Teleférico do Alemão travels over some of Rio’s densest neighborhoods in order to reach Bonsucesso train station, which allows greater access to the city as a whole.
Home to seven hot spring resorts a mere 50 miles from Tokyo, the town of Hakone is a popular destination in Japan. It’s also known for the Hakone Ropeway, which has been recognized by the Guinness as the busiest gondola lift in the world. With each cable car accommodating 10 people, gondolas depart every minute for a 30-minute journey across Hakone.
Running between South Station in Gora and Tegendai Station on Lake Ashi, the ropeway has three stops and includes a car change at Owakadani to pass over the highly active and sulfuric hot springs of Owakudani Valley. Passengers can also spot Mount Fuji and Lake Ashinoko on clear days.
Cape Town, South Africa
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is one of Cape Town’s most recognizable landmarks, carrying passengers to 3,563 feet above sea level. The transportation system was constructed in 1929 after plans for a mountain railway had been stalled due to World War I. After a Norwegian engineer suggested building a gondola, the project was completed with a wooden cable car that carried 20 people (including the conductor) up the mountain. Since then, the system has been renovated three times — in 1958, 1974, and 1997 — and has been accident-free since its opening.
Today, a ride on the cable car is a five-minute journey to the top of Table Mountain, which provides sweeping views of the city, sea, and surrounding mountains. As of 2019, it was reported to have transported over 28 million people and has been implemented with revolving floors that offer passengers 360-degree views. Operating seven days a week, a round-trip ticket costs approximately $25 USD and is one of the most unique ways to see the city.
Mexico City, Mexico
In 2021, Mexico City installed Cablebus, a cable-car transit system intended to improve the lives of commuters. With two separate lines that are now fully operational, the Cablebus accommodates 500,000 daily commuters for seven pesos ($0.35 USD) per ride.
Line 1 of Cablebus travels from the Cuautepec neighborhood to the city’s metro and bus stations in Indios Verdes, stretching for 5.7 miles across the city. With six stops along the way, Line 1 connects two important bus lines in 33 minutes, shortening a journey that would take more than an hour and a half by vehicle.
Line 2 is 6.5 miles in length and takes 40 minutes, connecting Constitución de 1917 with Iztapalapa, the city’s most populated district. As it has proved to be a highly effective transit system, the city hopes to implement two more cable car lines in the near future.