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Quality of Life

San Diego Is Getting New Trolley Cars, What Happens To The Old Ones?

One of MTS's original trolleys out of service in San Diego (top) and one of MTS's original trolleys on the tracks in Mendoza, Argentina (bottom).
Matt Hoffman/KPBS and Leonardo Calfin Bello/MetrotrenHD
One of MTS's original trolleys out of service in San Diego (top) and one of MTS's original trolleys on the tracks in Mendoza, Argentina (bottom).

There have been five generations of MTS trolley cars since 1981, each getting more and more advanced. The first trolleys had no computers and cost around $825,000. Nearly 40 years later the trolley cars come equipped with 27 computers and cost around $3.6 million.

The Metropolitan Transit System decommissioned it's first series of trolleys in 2015 after putting more than 2 million miles on them. The city of Mendoza, Argentina bought a large portion of MTS’s original fleet and kept the cars' signature red coloring.

"They purchased 18 of them," MTS's Rail Division CEO Wayne Terry said. "So they have 18 cars in Mendoza, Argentina now. We’ve worked with them over the years to make sure the cars keep running and they are. "

San Diego Is Getting New Trolley Cars, What Happens To The Old Ones?

The U.S. federal government even has some of the old cars.

"They use them for terrorist training," Terry said.

Just like cars on the road — if you take care of trolleys — they last longer.

"These cars will operate 25 to 30 years," Terry said. "We maintain them very well we can get more years out of them."

With the introduction of the fifth generation trolley in April, MTS is now looking to repurpose its second generation trolley cars.

"We have 25 of them that will be available to be acquired by the end of this year," Terry said.

RELATED: MTS Unveils Its Newest Trolley Car

MTS said it tries to avoid scrapping old trolleys.

"We always like to have the cars that we decommission find a good home," Terry said. "We’re prideful of our maintenance program — our cars are in excellent shape. And if they can get a second life in another country, or another city, we feel very good about that."

MTS is in the process of restoring its first trolley and plans to put it back in service soon. A handful of first-generation trolleys are in museums across the country. Locally you can find one at the San Diego Electric Railway Association in National City.

San Diego Is Getting New Trolley Cars, What Happens To The Old Ones?
By Reporter Matt Hoffman MTS is in the process of rolling out it's fifth generation trolley in San Diego and will start to offload some of it's older trolleys over the next year. You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego News Matters, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.