Vertical Transport Systems in Donostia - San Sebastián

Over the last few years, new vertical transport systems have been developed and those more than one century old have experienced intense technological innovation. The offer of vertical public  transport makes walking and cycling trips to and from the city centre easier for citizens who live in the hilly parts of the city.

Vertical transport encourages people to shift towards non-motorized transport modes. It is specially targeted to older people and persons with reduced mobility.

Background & Objectives

Half the city's population lives in the hillside districts. This is a significant barrier for those willing to choose walking or cycling as a mode of transport.

The aim of the installation of public vertical transport systems is to open up new pedestrian routes by linking the high and low districts of the city. The installation of lifts and escalators enables the inhabitants of the higher areas to walk or cycle to and from the flat central areas.

The whole population of the higher districts can benefit from this measure but older people and persons with reduced mobility are a main target group.


A Plan for Vertical Transport in San Sebastián has been developed by the Municipality. The size of the target population and its demographic features constitute a first starting point in determining the importance of a vertical transport installation.

The existing patterns of travelling to and from the district concerned helped to evaluate the usefulness of a vertical transport system in order to reduce the number of trips by car and to increase walking,  cycling and PT trips. Topographic characteristics and connectivity to public transport lines also have to be considered. Whether to choose lifts, escalators or other systems depends on height difference and slope values, needed transport capacity  and available funding.

The investment costs are split in two: construction works and the vehicle transport system. The mechanical part has a fixed cost while civil engineering costs are extremely variable. When analysing the  viability of those systems it is also essential to bear in mind their operation and maintenance costs since there are significant differences between one system and another.

Partners involved and relevant stakeholders are associations of neighbours, elderly and physically handicapped people.

Five lifts and two escalators have already been installed, three are already in the construction phase and two more are about to start. Some of them improve the accesibility of public urban equipments such as the Cristina Enea Park or the Aquarium, while the rest connect the higher parts of the city to the pedestrian area and public transport network.

Some of the projects of future lifts or escalators are linked to urbanistic developments that may be delayed due to the current economic situation.

Justifying the installation of a lift or other vertical transport system economically, environmentally and socially has to do with the use made of it by the population as well a with the system's capability to divert trips by car to other means of urban transport. If the equipment fails to contribute to changing the mobility behaviour, its contribution to sustainability will also be questionable.


Accesibility of the higher parts of the city has been improved. Slope areas are thus integrated in the pedestrian, cycling and PT network. Social exclusion due to the existence of physical barriers for the  elderly and people with reduced mobility has been reduced. New pedestrian routes have been established and connectivity to public transport has been reinforced.

Three new lifts and one escalator will be installed over the coming years. The implementation of the complete Vertical Transport Plan is dependent on funding possibilities.

This experience can easily be transferred to other cities with similar topographical features.

Contact Person
Mr. Andrés Martínez
Firm: Municipality of Donostia-San Sebastián
Address: c/ Urdaneta 13, 3ª planta, 20.006 - Donostia – San Sebastián, Spain
Phone: +34-943 48 28 09


Additional documents

Public Vertical Transport

The AENEAS project is supported by:
Inteligent Energy
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