If you had $7 million to use on behalf of the residents of your poorest slums, how would you distribute it? For Medellin, Colombia, that’s a no-brainer: Blow the whole wad on a MONSTER ESCALATOR. Wait, wait! It’s actually a good idea.
The giant escalator helps slum residents get to their hillside homes from the city center — a nonsensically steep climb of more than 1,200 vertical feet. To fully appreciate how radically this thing changes the landscape of the slums, you need to watch the video above — the BBC reports that the moving stairway turned a more-than-30-minute hike into a “six-minute glide.” It’s essentially vertical public transit; like a train, it improves quality of life and makes commutes less soul-killing. But in Medellin it makes them less quad-killing too.
Like Bogota to the south, Medellin earned a reputation as a bastion of crime and drug trafficking in the 1980s. Bogota turned that around using transportation infrastructure, among other things; a new bus system and bike lanes that would be the envy of even Minneapolis have helped empower impoverished people and cut back on crime by putting more “eyes on the street.” And Medellin’s following suit with Escalatorzilla and cable cars to other hillside slums.