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Inside the Icon: San Diego Trolley

All aboard San Diego's landmark light rail system. This month San Diego Trolley, Inc. (SDTI) celebrates 34 years in operation.
Photo By Scott Murphy

By Christina Orlovsky Page

Visit this station

America Plaza Trolley Station 1050 India Street, Downtown

A Child of the ’80s

The inaugural ride took place on July 19, 1981, on the South Line from downtown San Diego to the U.S./ Mexico border in San Ysidro.

SDTI Ancestry

SDTI is a descendant of San Diego Street Car Company, the city’s first transit system, which began service on July 3, 1886, with an open-air car pulled by mules or horses up Fifth Avenue. Now it’s part of the MTS (Metropolitan Transit System).

It goes for miles

Today, SDTI traverses more than 53.5 miles on three routes—Blue, Green, and Orange—with 53 stations. The longest line is the 20.7-mile Orange Line, running between downtown San Diego and Gillespie Field in East County.

A rise in ridership

In its first year, 1981, roughly 10,000 passengers a day rode the trolley; in 2013, that weekday number was up to more than 119,000. In 2014, there were more than 39 million passenger trips total.


San Diego hosting the Super Bowl in 1998 and 2003 brought record one-day ridership to SDTI: 219,000 in 1998 and more than 400,000 in 2003.

Ballgame or bust

This year, SDTI launched the free mTicket app, which sends riders trolley tickets to their smartphones for select Padres games.

Trolley 2.0

SDTI has embarked on a $660 million upgrading project, adding new low-floor cars that reduce boarding times and improve accessibility.

Inside the Icon: San Diego Trolley

Photo By Scott Murphy

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