The neighborhood of Comuna 13, located on the periphery of Medellin, the second-largest city in Colombia, is one of the poorest section of the city. During the regime of Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord, many fled the city to the hills causing overpopulation and unsustainable growth leading to a large shortage in basic municipal services such as electricity, water, sewage, police and transportation, in turn leading to low quality of life for its residents. Crime and gang war gained upper hand, and Comuna became known as the most violent neighborhood in the city of Medellin.
But over the last decade, the city has worked hard to recover from years of violence, not only with law-enforcement initiatives but by making a series of innovative, public investments designed to integrate the city’s low-income residents and communities with its wealthier commercial centre. One of these initiatives is the construction of a massive hillside escalator.
For years, the 12,000 residents of the hilly neighborhood of Comuna 13 used to climb hundreds of large steps, the equivalent of 28 stories, to get from the city center to their homes. The arduous 30-minute walk has now been cut short to a five-minute ride, with the installation of an urban escalator system in 2011. The escalator is divided into six stages and zigzags its way up the slope ascending a height of 384 meters (1,260feet). The massive escalator, built at a cost of about US$6.7 million, is said to be the first such outdoor public escalator designed for use by residents of a poor area. (Also see: Hong Kong’s Outdoor Escalators )
"This escalator represents a celebration for all of us as a city," said Mayor Salazar Jaramillo when it was officially opened . "This should be a symbol of city transformation and peace for Comuna 13."
Innovations like the escalator are turning the Colombian city into a showcase for leading urban planning ideas. In 2012, Medellín was among 200 cities around the world, including New York and Tel Aviv, nominated for Most Innovative City of the Year due to a great advancement in public transportation.
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