Happy 40th! MTS Trolley Celebrates Anniversary

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
MTS Trolley, which launched in 1981, is now a 54.3-mile system with four lines (UC San Diego Blue, Orange, Sycuan Green, and SDG&E Silver) and 54 stations. All 244 LRVs ever purchased came from Siemens Mobility.

MTS Trolley, which launched in 1981, is now a 54.3-mile system with four lines (UC San Diego Blue, Orange, Sycuan Green, and SDG&E Silver) and 54 stations. All 244 LRVs ever purchased came from Siemens Mobility.

San Diego (Calif.) Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) recently marked the 40th anniversary of the Trolley—the first modern light rail system in the U.S.

On July 19, 1981, the Trolley’s inaugural run took place on the 15.9-mile South Line (now the UC San Diego Blue Line) between downtown San Diego and San Ysidro at the U.S./Mexico border. And on July 26, 1981, revenue service began with a fleet of 14 light rail vehicles—Siemens-produced U2s, built in Dusseldorf and shipped to California.

Today, MTS Trolley is a 54.3-mile system with four lines (UC San Diego Blue, Orange, Sycuan Green, and SDG&E Silver) and 54 stations (see map, left). According to San Diego MTS, 30-plus cities across North America have emulated its red trolley service, which served more than 32 million riders in FY 2019.

The Blue Line’s new 11-mile Mid-Coast Extension is scheduled to open with nine new stations this November, offering a one-seat ride from the U.S.-Mexico border to University Town Center (see map below). (On June 29, the first Siemens Mobility S700 light rail vehicle was launched on the line signifying the start of train testing, and the transfer of responsibility from the San Diego Association of Governments to operator San Diego MTS.)

“It’s the millions of Trolley riders who have made this one of the most successful transportation projects in the United States,” said Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, MTS Board Vice Chair and Mayor of National City.

“The Trolley brings families together, creates access to jobs and provides educational opportunities,” said MTS CEO Sharon Cooney. Every LRV purchased for the Trolley—all 244, she noted—is from Siemens.

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