By Miquel Muñoz
Mexico City, Mar 4 (efe-epa).- Mexico’s capital, a sprawling metropolis whose city proper is home to more than 9 million inhabitants, on Thursday inaugurated a cable-car line to boost the mobility of residents of one of its hilliest and most socially excluded districts.
Dubbed the Cablebus, the mass-transport, gondola lift system is the first of its kind to operate in Mexico City.
“It’s for the areas of the city with the greatest need. It’s a first-class system for first-class people in Mexico City,” Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said during the inauguration of the first two stations, which are located 1.7 kilometers (1 mile) apart in the hilly, low-income neighborhood of Cuautepec in the capital’s northern outskirts.
Better public transport in the poorest parts of the city will help “reduce (its) wide disparities,” said Sheinbaum, who also announced that the second Cablebus line will be inaugurated in late June in Iztapalapa, a northeastern, working-class borough that is the capital’s most populous.
The new cable-car line, which was opened to the public on Thursday following the mayor’s visit, will be cost-free for the first few weeks while local residents familiarize themselves with the new transport mode.
The service will then be available at an affordable price that allows for the system’s sustainability.
The first two stations to be inaugurated – Tlalpexco and Campos Revolucion – and the rest of Line 1 are located in Cuautepec, which began as a haphazard settlement in the capital’s northern limits but is now home to 500,000 inhabitants.
Line 1 of the cable-car system, which will be fully operational on June 20, will cost the Mexico City government 2.9 billion pesos (roughly $140 million), consist of six stations and run to Indios Verdes, a key public-transport hub on the north side of the city.
The line will cover a total distance of nine kilometers (5.6 miles) in just over a half hour and is expected to transport 48,000 passengers per day, while the travel time between the line’s first two stations – Tlalpexco and Campos Revolucion – is about six minutes.
The glass cable-car cabins contrast sharply with the urban landscape of Cuautepec, a neighborhood whose brightly colored houses call to mind a Brazilian favela (shantytown).
The hilly terrain of that district of Mexico City’s north side makes transportation difficult, Isabel Arroyos, the manager of a grocery store located near the entrance to the Campos Revolucion station, told Efe.
“(It could help) in transporting all the residents and all the people who live there in the hills. I think it will benefit everyone quite a bit,” she said.
The Cablebus has the added advantage of being electric-powered and is being touted as an environmentally friendly form of transportation in Mexico’s capital, which is notorious for high levels of pollution in certain months of the year that trigger environmental contingency plans and restrictions on vehicular traffic.
Arroyos acknowledged that the new transport infrastructure has its local proponents and detractors but said that she and most other residents believe it will be very beneficial for the community.
Likewise, Fernanda Mendoza said she was optimistic about the Cablebus, adding that it would help ease an overly crowded public-transport system in a densely populated district.
“A lot of people say it won’t change anything, but we really don’t know. We at least need to try it out for a month to see how well it works,” she said.
Although acknowledging that some might be afraid to opt for a form of aerial transport, the street food vendor said she would not hesitate to use it if it is more efficient because “you have to go out and work and keep going.”
At the other entrance to the Campos Revolucion station, where some sections of ground still need paving, Maria Elena said she supports the cable-car line because it will “get people to their destination faster.”
She said she hopes that giving people another transportation alternative will have a major impact on social inclusion and ease passenger logjams during morning commutes. EFE-EPA