Rio de Janeiro is lifting up its poor—literally. A new 3.4-km gondola line, much like those used at ski resorts, will soon carry residents high above their homes in the Complexo do Alemão, a group of shantytowns, or favelas, packed onto a hillside in the city’s north. The neighbourhood’s passages are too narrow and winding for buses, so getting in and out of the area has meant a long, rambling walk. When the line opens in the next few weeks, users will sail through six stations in 16 minutes, free of charge.
The $74-million project is part of a larger investment in public works initiatives by Brazil’s government ahead of Rio’s hosting of the 2016 Olympics. Jorge Mario Jáuregui, the line’s architect, says it creates a tangible and symbolic connection between the favelas and the rest of Rio, making “the informal city part of the formal city.” While residents welcome the upgrade, says Patricia Maresch, a documentary filmmaker who works in the area, some feel the money might have been better spent. “It looks good, it’s technologically inventive,” she says, “but it doesn’t really help. You can get your kids to school quicker, but it’s still a bad school.”