Giant escalators help poor in Medellin, Colombia
A nearly $7 million project put escalators on the steep hillside in Comuna 13 in Medellin, Colombia.
December 27th, 2011
12:39 PM ET

Giant escalators help poor in Medellin, Colombia

Residents of one of the dangerous slums in Medellin, Colombia, now have a faster way to make it to the top of the steep hillside district of Comuna 13: a set of escalators that will help them climb the equivalent of a 18-story building.

The residents in this poor town have been making the trek up cement steps for years, but now, thanks to the $6.9 million project, they won't have to work as hard.

"We used to see escalators in shopping malls, but Medellin will be the first to use it as public transport, a mobility solution for these neighborhoods with difficult access," Mayor Alonso Salazar said, according to the news site Colombia Reports.

The BBC reports that Comuna 13's 12,000 residents will now shorten a 30 minute hike to the top. They will now be able to get there in about 5 minutes. The project is divided up into six sections of escalators.

"They’re really cool because it really gives you an advantage as you’re going up," resident Yarley Villa told Caracol TV. "It’s much more comfortable when you’re carrying packages and stuff like that."

During the project's construction it gained both support and concern from the community.

While some residents were happy to have  a replacement for the nearly 530 steps they used to have to climb (or the equivalent of 18 flights of stairs), others wished the money had been spent to help improve the housing situation or for food assistance, according to Colombia Reports.

The project is aimed at helping improve Medellin, the hometown of Pablo Escobar, which had been known in the past more for drugs and violence.

soundoff (137 Responses)
  1. dike

    Useless project.. trying to make the healthy people lazy... what next open up more McDonalds and give away free burgers... wish it was spent on taking down a few drug lords... that would have helped the world

    December 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • czerendipity

      Drug lords probably helped PAY for the escalator. Where else would they get the money?

      December 27, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheila

      Could you take the 530 stairs each way every day? Fully clothed, carrying bundles, on a cane, with arthritis, with asthma – seriously?

      December 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sarcasmo

    Oh sure, eliminate the only source of hard work in these poor peoples' lives.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheila

      Could you take the 530 stairs each way every day? Fully clothed, carrying bundles, on a cane, with arthritis, or with asthma – seriously?

      December 27, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Uham

    It is only matter of time before they start to charge them toll.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lyle Lanley

    Think they would be interested in a monorail?

    December 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chucktowndoc

      Went over great in Ogdenville and North Haverbrook.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kuzzy

    Whats going to happen is the residents will wind up stripping the escelators for the copper wiring and scrap metal.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • You Greedy American Pig Dogs

      if they were smart that's what they'd do. show the govt they don't need their damned escalators to hell.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dave

    do they need to built canopies for the escalators? if exposed to rain and wind, etc, would that damage the escalators? The outdoor escalators I have seen in other cities have canopies.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. factualfact

    With almost 7 million spent on escalators couldn't they instead have used this money to fix up their houses? I'm sure the people would of preferred that instead. Do you see all those rocks and bricks on the roofs? That's what's keeping the tin roofs in place!! But what does that matter right? Cause hey we've got escalators. Geez.....

    December 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarcasmo

      That's like $1.20 per house. What can you do for $1.20?

      December 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. norman

    Is it me, or does it seem that the money could have been put to better use in a SLUM. The escalators must seem like a slap in the face to the people in real need "Hey, we got 6.9 million dollars to spend on your Slum! Here are some....escalators"

    December 27, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. violette

    Really? I'd like to see any of you people climb up and down a 28-story building every day. Jerks...

    December 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. blackestblack

    Next up.. Columbia becomes world's second fattest nation shortly after it was the healthiest. How ironic just cuz we get our cocaine from them doesn't mean they should import our commonest devices of apathy.

    December 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Santa

    Horrible editing job instead of completely focusing on the positve news of the article the editor had to make a liasson with Pablo Escobar, as if there was nothing else to relate such a beautiful country with.
    So sad an editor for CNN has such narrow visions and few things in mind to make the readers relate to.
    Sad just sad....

    December 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tsell

    While I do agree with the concerns posted that the city may fail to keep the escalators operational, assuming they do keep up and running, it sems like a pretty good use of funds to me. Mobility for these people can be a huge barrier to jobs and a better life and anything that can free up some time in their day (and its the ones who actually venture out of the towt who get this extra time, not the gangsters who never exit the slum anyway) I think this can provide some real benefit. And as for comments that the money could be better spent on housing or something (and admittedly I am speaking mainly from experience in Brazil, not Columbia), just keep in mind that most of these houses are built haphazardly on hill sides so while a post above gave an exmple with the price of a house pegged at like $1500 (suggesting the $7M from the escalator could house ~5000 people), that underestimates the cost of building true safe and stable constructions which is what a government should do if it wants to improve public housing. In short, I could be wrong if this turns out to involve some corrupt officials wasting funds for personal gain, but on the face of it, it seems like the kinds of public works that can do real, lasting good to a community rather than simple handouts.

    December 27, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GP

    What an innovative approach! The city government has addressed a public transportation problem by thinking outside the box.
    Instead of judging the use of the resources ("should've fixed their homes" ...) without knowing their reality, we should be praising an out of the box idea and the fact that the tax money was used to help those that need it the most.

    December 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pooh_just_is

    Show you what the sales of crack to americans can buy.

    December 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Evan

    And what happens when these escalators break down and there are no funds for repairs? Has anyone noticed that when an escalator (i.e. in a subway) is down, the stationary metal stairs are awkward and slippery. Most choose to climb the stairs inbetween escalators that are out of service, because it's both harder to climb the stairs AND the stairs are slippery when damp. That is why they cover outdoor escalators with canopies; it not only protects them from water damage, but prevents riders from slipping and falling.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and those who installed these escalators - with all good intentions - were clearly clueless about what they were doing. When it rains, mildew forms at night, energy prices spike and they limit hours, and finally they break down, these people's lives will become a lot more miserable. If older people risked heart attacks climbing stairs, they're about to face certain death on slippery and broken escalators.

    December 27, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • GP

      Not mentioned in the CNN story but available in other news media: the second phase is to build the canopies for protection.
      We are very quick to blame! Other people know what they are doing too. Let's get off our high horse.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
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