LA PAZ, March 10 (Xinhua) -- A cable car network linking Bolivia's two largest cities, La Paz and El Alto, has become a viable and popular alternative to traditional means of mass transit.
More economical and speedier than buses, the cable cars are such a success that the government is planning to expand the existing five lines to 11, to better serve residents in more outlying neighborhoods of the sprawling cities, each of which is home to some 1.7 million residents.
The move will consolidate the world's "longest and most modern" cable car system with six new lines to be built by Austrian company Doppelmayr by 2019 with an investment of 800 million U.S. dollars, said the manager of the state-run enterprise Mi Teleferico, Cesar Dockweiler.
Western Bolivia's comprehensive 10-km-long cable car network has moved more than 100 million commuters since it opened in 2014.
Mi Teleferico has been keeping track of its number of users and celebrating the milestones by handing out prizes. On Nov. 15, 2017, Tomas Jurado Caiza became the 100 millionth commuter to use the service, winning more than 3,450 dollars in prizes.
Most cable cars around the world shuttle between two locations, and often serve mainly as a tourist attraction, including those in Medellin, Colombia; Caracas, Venezuela and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which "only offer transportation to suburban zones," said Dockweiler.
"There are some 14,000 cable cars around the world, but only La Paz and El Alto have the most modern technological system and ... the first mass transit system," said Dockweiler.
Doppelmayr has built as many as 7,000 cable cars in 80 countries, or 50 percent of the existing systems.
Mobility is one of the biggest challenges facing cities today. In Latin America, an estimated 130 million more people will be living in urban centers by 2030 compared to 2010, according to a 2014 report by the Inter-American Development Bank.
A recent survey found that 52.3 percent of residents of La Paz and El Alto believe the expanded cable car system will be essential to solving the area's mass transit problems.