Poverty, participation and aerial cable-cars: a case study of Medellín, Colombia.
Davila, Julio D.
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Introduction This paper reflects on partial results of an on-going research project seeking to learn systematically from a set of public transport and urban upgrading interventions fostered by the local government of Medellín, Colombia. Whether responses to a “social debt” as a former mayor put it, or fuelled by a populist drive, over the last ten years the local government has been reaching out to integrate previously invisible low income no-go areas into the fabric of the city. The introduction of aerial cable-cars under Mayor Luis Perez’s mandate was a key component to integrate some low-income districts into the city’s mass-transport (surface metro) system. This intervention helped increase not only the accessibility but also the visibility of local residents and their settlements, arguably a first and necessary step towards concerted actions to reduce poverty. The case of Medellin is worth reflecting on, not least because it is increasingly being followed in other cities in Colombia and elsewhere, but also because it offers lessons on the nature and impact of technological innovations at the urban scale.