Sustainable Cities™

Rio de Janeiro: the gondola opens up the favela

Linking the mountainous favela with the rest of the city - and ensuring its participation in Rio's fast-growing economy- was a serious challenge. The Complex of Alemao's uneven terrain was not suitable for conventional modes of transportation, but the gondola is a smart and cost-effective solution for the integration of this underserved area to the rest of the city.

POMA - AlternativeMedia

In terms of public transportation, Rio de Janeiro is facing the same problems as many other Latin-American metropolises. The city is served by a comprehensive public transit system, including a modern metro, suburban trains and a large bus fleet. But transportation services are sometimes unable to keep pace with rampant urbanization, especially when it comes to the favelas. These informal settlements are constructed on steep areas where conventional modes of public transportation cannot be considered. As 20% of Rio's population is living in a favela, a large part of the population has to do without any public transportation.

Traditional public policies towards favelas generally consist of either demolition or neglect - leaving entire communities outside of the city, without any basic services. But a new conception of the favela is emerging with the construction of gondola systems in Medellin, Caracas and now Rio. The gondola system is actually the only transport solution for these hilly and winding neighborhoods, as they literally fly over them. Not only does the gondola connect the shanty towns with the rest of the city, but it also makes them more visible and shows that they can't be ignored. 

Photo: POMA - AlternativeMedia

In anticipation of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro is undertaking massive construction projects. Some of them will see their scope limited to the sporting events, but other are seeking to redistribute the expected growth. The Teleferico de Alemao, a gondola system linking the Comlex of Alemao to the rest of the city, is part of the second caetgory. This smart and cost-effective transportation solution is part of the Growth Acceleration Plan initiated by Lula da Silva.

Flying over the uneven surface of the favela, the gondolas provide these impacted communities with a real transit solution. They are also meant support the resident's efforts to build a better future after the police seizure of the complex to fight drug gangs. Providing better access to the city, the gondola systems ensure social mix but also a easier and faster access to leisure and job opportunities for the poor populations from the North of the City. As the new system connects to the conventional mass transit systems (suburban train) at the Bonsuccesso station, they make the rest of the city way more accessible than before.

This 3,5 kilometers makes it the longest gondola line in the world. The whole journey will take no more than 16 minutes, instead of 50 minutes by foot. In order to make this new facility more affordable, the 120 000 residents of Alemao are offered a free daily round trip during the first months. Additional rides will cost R$1 (US$ 0,60). Moving beyond transportation to social inclusion, each station will provide social services such as job training, education, medical services, and legal advice. When providied with basic services and social incentives, favela can become thriving communities fostering growth. 
A solar panel is installed on each of the cabins, making them self-sufficient in terms of lighting, sound and video surveillance systems. This sustainable transit solution for Rio's hillside communities could be replicated in other parts of the city, and studies are already underway for the construction of a least three more lines.

With a cable car you're not only able to integrate parts of the city. You link those people to citizenship. You'll now be able to get on the cable car in Alemao, switch to a train at Bonsuccesso and in a few minutes you'll be on the metro to Ipanema in Rio's south zone, the city's picture postcard." 
Carlos Alberto de Oliveira, researcher at Rio de Janeiro's state university.



Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014