Opinion: Are cable cars the answer to Auckland’s catastrophic congestion?

Mi Teleferico, the cable car system over La Paz, Bolivia
Mi Teleferico, the cable car system over La Paz, Bolivia Photo credit: Emma Jolliff

OPINION: As a visitor to Auckland, there just aren't enough adjectives to describe how truly appalling the traffic is.

But on a trip last year to the Bolivian capital of La Paz, I wondered whether the highest capital city in the world might have part of the answer to the catastrophe that is Auckland commuting.

La Paz's Austrian-built cable car system, known as Mi Teleferico, currently has five lines spanning more than 17 kilometres. The completed network is expected to have 11 lines and 39 stations covering nearly 34 kilometres.

That's just about the distance from Albany to Otara.

Mi Teleferico's sleek lines, slick engineering and punctual operation are in contrast to the chaotic, sprawling metropolis below, with its unrendered brick homes cascading into the bowl-like city.

It traverses La Paz, and connects it to the neighbouring city of El Alto, servicing a population of around 2 million people. The cable car has cut the commute time for El Alto residents from one hour to just 10 minutes.

With an initial price tag of US$280 million (NZ$383 million), the network was largely a vanity project for President Evo Morales - but the social benefits have been huge.

Cable cars soar above La Paz, Bolivia
Cable cars soar above La Paz, Bolivia Photo credit: Emma Jolliff

Each line can transport 6000 people per hour. The 10-seater cabins leave every 12 seconds and it costs just 3 bolivianos (around NZ60c) per journey.

Plus, the electricity used to run it is partly generated by solar power.

Cut to Auckland, where the council estimates that the city's population of 1.5 million will swell by another million in the next 30 years.

Commuters spend 20 working days per year sitting in traffic. Around 800 new cars are registered in Auckland every week.

Mayor Phil Goff has tabled a regional fuel tax and wants better light rail and an "attitude change" toward transport.

Perhaps the council should forget attitude and think altitude - imagine travelling across Auckland up above the streets and houses, flying over the traffic, in a commute that had shrunk from an hour to 10 minutes.

La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia Photo credit: Emma Jolliff

The views for both commuters and tourists would be amazing, too.

A spokesman for Auckland Transport told Newshub: "We have not investigated a system like this to my knowledge. We'd have to look at how it would work in Auckland, with building stations and general infrastructure."

Start building and get moving, Auckland.

Emma Jolliff is a reporter for Newshub.

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