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San Diego Trolley Celebrates One-Seat Ride To Downtown

Aired 8/31/12 on KPBS News.

Mayor Sanders and other city bigwigs touted the extension of Green Line and $720 million in transit improvements.

— San Diego Trolley’s Green Line opened in 2005, connecting San Diego State and extending the system east to Santee. But the use of new cars that didn’t fit some old trolley platforms forced riders headed downtown to change trains in Old Town, adding time and frustration.

A national study has shown that trolley trips in the San Diego area fell 4.71 percent in 2012, compared to 2011.
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Above: A national study has shown that trolley trips in the San Diego area fell 4.71 percent in 2012, compared to 2011.

Starting Sunday, however, the Green Line will take you all the way downtown. Today, local politicians and transit officials heralded the news, and gave details of $720 million-dollar revamp of the 31-year-old system.

“No matter where you live (in San Diego), if you want to come downtown to work or to go to one of the great events, it’s now a single-ride ticket,” said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, referring to the elimination of any transfers. Transit pros call it a one-seat ride.

The Green Line, commonly used by people in Mission Valley and East County, has been running from Santee to Old Town. But next week, it will run from the Santee station to 12th and Imperial, downtown.

That means a westbound trolley ride from East County, bound for the Convention Center and Petco Park, will also become a one-seat ride, eliminating not just one transfer but two.

Starting Sunday, the trolley’s Blue Line, which has run from the Mexican Border to Old Town, will terminate downtown. That will change once the trolley system builds it next major extension, which will eventually bring the Blue Line all the way up to UC San Diego.

Construction of what's being called the Mid-Coast Line is expected to begin in two years.

The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) has played a major role in financing the San Diego trolley system. Leslie Rogers, with the FTA, elicited cheers from the crowd as spoke of connecting UCSD to the trolley system.

“I assure you we’re going to do our part to get it done!” he said.

Next week’s extension of the Green Line takes place as a larger project, called the “San Diego Trolley Renewal Project," is under way. The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) is spending $720 million to upgrade the system. The $720 million Trolley Renewal Project is funded primarily by California Proposition 1B bond funds and TransNet, the regional half-cent sales tax for transportation projects administered by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). Other funding sources include California Proposition 1A, and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, commonly known as the federal stimulus package.

Spokesmen for the MTS say the project includes adding more “low-floor” cars, that allow easy boarding of wheelchairs. It includes replacement of worn out tracks and switches, and modification of platforms.

The trolley renewal project is scheduled to be complete in fall of 2014.

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