San Diego Mid-Coast Trolley Reaches Final Stretch


Jose Chavez

One of the largest infrastructure projects in San Diego’s history –– the Mid-Coast Trolley project –– is set to begin final construction on April 16 on Genesee Avenue. The five-year project is expected to lessen traffic congestion within freeways and arterials within the Mid-Coast Corridor. Additionally, it is expected to expand its San Diegan public transportation capacity to accommodate future travel demands during peak period commute trips.

“Having this trolley providing access to our South Bay, East County communities who can now get here by rail rather than by car, it creates a whole level of opportunity that doesn’t currently exist,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria told San Diego NBC 7. “That’s one of the reasons why I’ve been a strong supporter of this project for so many years.”

The Mid-Coast Trolley extension route extends the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley service from the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego to the heart of UCSD. The project creates a one-seat (no transfer) ride from South San Diego county to the university, allowing for individuals as far south as the US-Mexico border to arrive in La Jolla in a maximum time of 70 minutes. The Mid-Coast Trolley is expected to begin service in late 2021.

There are three university stops intersecting at various points on campus. The first is the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Station, located on La Jolla Village Drive, west of Interstate 5. The second stop is Pepper Canyon trolley station, and the last is the Voigt Drive Station within the eastern portion of UCSD.

Photo courtesy of SANDAG and TransNet.

Funding for the project is largely attributed to the late MTS Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski, who was able to secure a full-funding $2.1 billion grant agreement. In anticipation of this transportation upgrade, UCSD planned out the construction of several projects that extend along the whole corridor from Old Town to University City.

The full-funding grant agreement in question originated from the San Diego Association of Governments, a public agency that allocates funds towards regional issues regarding growth, transportion, and other facets of regional development. In September 2016, the Federal Transit Administration and SANDAG funded half of the grant’s funding from TransNet, the region’s voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. The FTA covered the other half of the funding, as per the agreement.

Among these UCSD projects include the Design and Innovation Building at the Pepper Canyon trolley stop, the UCSD Downtown Center located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Park Boulevard and Market Street in downtown San Diego, and the now completed North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood.

Additionally, the trolley is expected to further aid San Diego’s historically disadvantaged Hispanic population. According to a report released by The Chicano Federation last September, Latinos make up 46 percent of So-Cal food service employees, 32 percent of the overall workforce, and 67% of all COVID-19 cases in San Diego County. The Mid-Coast Trolley extends the Blue Line service to many Hispanic communities in southern San Diego county, which will allow people to have easier access to UCSD and other parts of the region.

Some students anticipate that the trolley will make off-campus excursions more affordable, while others look at it as an environmentally friendly alternative to commuting.

“I drive fairly often out of La Jolla, as there aren’t many cheap activities to do inside the city,” stated Roger Revelle College freshman Johnathan Gong. “I don’t think it’s necessary to be driving everywhere and honestly, having another form of public transportation is super awesome for the environment. I think a lot of my friends would say the same thing too — we’d all love to see a trolley take us around places that we’ve maybe never seen before.”

The Mid-Coast Trolley is also expected to drastically increase transportation efficiency to UCSD for off-campus students. Commuters from Chula Vista to the main campus usually expect an hour-long drive, with Interstate 5 Northbound typically becoming congested with traffic around Pacific Beach. Additionally, gas prices in the San Diego area have steadily increased lately, rising by 5.7 cents over the past 13 days and $1.23 since last year.

“I think it is great that they are introducing a new form of transportation for commuters in Chula Vista,” said John Muir College freshman Giselle Rodriguez in an interview with The UCSD Guardian. “The MTS trolley is very accessible to Chula Vista’s surrounding regions, including San Ysidro and National City. Hopefully, it will offer a more economical alternative to spending money on fuel and car maintenance.”

Individuals interested in staying up to date on the progress of the Mid-Coast Corridor project can visit its Twitter and Facebook page, sign up for its newsletter, or contact the project team at [email protected] or (877) 379-0110.

Photo courtesy of SD News.

This article was modified on Apr. 27 at 11:39 AM to include a mention of SANDAG and the trolley’s funding mechanisms.