With the consolidation of democratic governments in the 1980s and 1990s, wholesale evictions of entire neighbourhoods ceased to be a solution to urban problems in Latin America. This paper discusses an example of a new generation of municipal programmes aimed at physically upgrading informal settlements while integrating them both physically and socially into the fabric of the city. In Medellín, a city with a recent history of violence and social inequality, the audacious use of well-established ski-slope aerial cable-car technology in dense and hilly low-income informal settlements was followed by major neighbourhood upgrading comprising new social housing, schools and other social infrastructure, as well as support to micro-enterprises. Although lack of mobility contributes to social inequality and poverty, the paper argues that the introduction of quick-fix highly visible transport technology on its own is unlikely to help reduce poverty. Although urban upgrading programmes and the symbolic value of cable car systems have instilled among the local population a feeling of inclusion and integration into the ‘modern’ city, they can also be understood as mechanisms for the ‘normalisation’ of informal sectors of the city.
Brand, P.; Davila, J. Mobility innovation at the urban margins: Medellín’s metrocables. City (2011) 15 (6) 647-661. [DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2011.609007]