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. nino

    is that escalator rain proof? or weather proof ?

    December 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • brandon

      nino I was thinking the same thing.

      to those who say the money could have been spent better, remember this this will actually drastically improve the quality of life in that area. a 5-minute escalator ride replaces what was probably a 40-minute walk up the stairs. How many times a day did they have to make that 40-minute trip? How many times can they do the 5-minute ride now? It's like when the washing machine was invented.... no more need to do the wash by hand, and it does it in less time too!

      December 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • jenfromcali

      Think about the outdoor ones in Las Vegas. They shut down in the rain. However, vegas can afford repairs..

      December 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • You Greedy American Pig Dogs


      December 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Minoa

      The project could have been worthwhile, but not without building a simple enclosure for the escalators. Without protecting them from the elements, they will be useless in a couple of years. The world over, some politicians waste money for short-term popularity boosts.

      December 27, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lindor

    So odd. That 7 mil could have been spent in a better way.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • yoyo

      And what exactly is your better suggestion?

      December 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • José Jiminez

      Giving tax breaks to the rich, of course. Why waste money on those who really need it? If you start treating peons like they are importante, they will start to believe it and try to make their lives better! Than who will be the servants and slaves in the society?

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

      How about:
      1) Cheap or free handicapped-accessible bus routes between the impoverished neighborhoods, healthcare, training programs, and commercial areas where jobs are available.
      2) Expanded training programs at community colleges, planned to match the specific needs of local industry.
      3) Improved services for the severly disabled, especially ones that enable them do productive and fulfilling things that contribute to the standard of living of the entire community, e.g. docents & aides in hospitals, schools, and public buildings.

      December 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bobcat ( in a hat )

    Maintenace on that is going be a biatch.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. drqing

    I'd like to know what the escalator will look like one or two years from now, full with graffiti and rusted by the elements. I'm afraid that wasn't smart use citizens' tax money. Anyway, I hope for the contrary.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • drqing

      In the USA, we've been encouraged to walk the stairs of our building so we loose weight because we're an overweight society thanks to our fast food restaurants, elevators and electric stairs. To my Colombian friends, keep climbing the concrete steps, it's better for your health. Just an idea!

      December 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      You do realize that us, as Americans, probably eat a great deal more, not to mention less healthy, food than the poor there, right?

      December 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dale

    7 Million could have built new houses for all these people; minus any and all government and contractor corruption..

    December 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      $7,000,000 with 12,000 residents (lets say 6,000 houses) is only $1,166 per house...

      December 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. lillian

    they live in shacks...but 7 mil goes to an escalator ......i thought we made bad choices in the US.....thats a sin

    December 27, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dogs rule

    There's just no pleasing some people....

    December 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    I like the gratuitous reference to Pablo Escobar.

    They are poor. They have barely enough to eat, let alone freaking Mickey D's.


    When I saw the ti tle on the main blog sight, it struck me as a weird headline...

    December 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brian

    7 million to buy them houses. You do realize that's about $540 per person. Nice house, idiots.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Minoa

      Use the Habitat for Humanity model, and $7M could make a big dent in the housing problem.

      December 27, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Russ

    It could lead to revitalization of the area it will be desirable to live near it. Because of it, the whole slum could disappear. How many areas, even affluent ones, have escalators to them? Smart move. Now they should do the same thing in Rio.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pete

    That's the extent of the vertical social mobility of the average Medellin resident.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. US guy

    In two years all those poor people will be climbing up through those escalators, because escalators will stop working. And looking at those 5 feet wide escalators- there will be a a big line at the top and bottom landings to go through escalators

    December 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. eddy

    You are so NOT ORIGINAL and SO VERY DUMB.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jenn

    Time is money and cutting an hour long roundtrip commute to ten minutes each day for thousands is a pretty significant sum when talking man hours. It isn't just the working who benefit. The elderly and infirm who might otherwise be stuck in their homes because they can't negotiate flights of stairs can now enjoy a renew freedom of travel.
    BTW, Hong Kong has used outdoor escalators as part of its transit system for more than a decade

    December 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. vipul desai

    This type of infrastructure can have a big positive impact on people. Facilities for poor people is exactly what is lacking in poor countries, so this is a step in the right direction. The weather issue is obvious, but they must have thought about that and hopefully there is money allocated for ongoing maintenance.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
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