Comuna trece Escalator
How to make the upper reaches of a mountainside slum that is too steep for cars or buses an accessible part of the city and allow poor slum residents to get home and mobilize parts of the city by addressing social hardships, like the fact that they climb the equivalent of a 28-story building for work?
The City built a 385-meter outdoor escalator as part of a broader urban planning plan to reduce crime and instill pride in slum-residents and installed a public transportation system that is linked to the benefits of newly built parks and libraries that encourage people to reclaim their communities.
Informal settlements and urban slums are often regarded as components that operate outside of the legalities of the city, but the Comuna Trece Escalator project funded by the city of Medellin in Colombia, has proposed a radical alternative. Operating more as a symbolic shift in the approach to policy and architectural interventions for the urban poor, the project represents a part of a long-term plan to fight poverty and remake the fortunes of the city by reinvesting in communities who, for centuries, have seen little to no qualitative attention from top-down institutions. Running through the slum community with a stylish orange roof might look out of place, yet it seeks to integrate itself with the existing complex make-up that amounts to informal life in slums. While helping rid the area of gangs and other economic hardships, the Communa Trece escalator provides new insights in a long and complicated conversation about the politics of accessibility to the city and the economic processes of slum integration.
While some officials and national academics fear that the government is undermining harsh economic and political problems with flashy architectural projects, it is worth noting a change in the way which we interact with informality in many of the cities around the world. Legitimizing the lives of the urban poor and those living in precarious urban settlements is important. Getting them out of poverty in the long term is definitely important, but providing them with a better quality of life in the short term is as equally necessary.
Newly created public spaces around the escalators provide opportunities for social encounters and community activities.
More foreigners and outsiders visit the escalators because they find the area less dangerous, attracting a better perception of the area.
Eases the hardship of urban dwellers by giving people in Comuna 13 access to the city.
A way for the city and its institutions to gain access to the remotest areas and regain public support over the drug lords and gangs that define the community.
New sense of inclusion, pride and dignity is widespread among the local residents who welcome outsiders and reap the benefits of beautification, even those who don't benefit directly from the escalator.
People weren't asked if they wanted an escalator.
Investment of around $5.5 million is too big for a project that directly benefits 12,000 people at most.
Has not yet produced higher incomes in the poor areas or reduced Medellín’s substantial problem with income inequality.
Still a crime-ridden area that is economically and socially volatile.
Energy Intensive solution
- Local and City governments must actively seek out significant investments away from the spectacle of the city center and to economically stressed communities at the margin, not through grant-funding or other usual economic practices like privatization, but as a radical intervention to poor suburban life and outer-ring suburbs in America.
- Use mobility and the idea of "access to the city" as a right to improve local networks that provide new modes of transportation to those who need it.
- Conceive minority and poor communities as living a life that, while different, is a legitimate part of the make-up of the city that requires special attention from municipal and local authorities, instead of standardizing housing, development, and market forces.
- Increase funding for public transportation, and develop new programs and support
existing programs that improve minorities’ mobility by focusing on the needs of low-income
and minority transit users to provide reliable connections to job sites and other
- Address the inequitable effects of transportation through a prioritized allocation of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to transit-accessible development.