By Ashley Cook
The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) is giving a much-needed nip-and-tuck to its 30-year-old trolley system, which began service in July 1981 along its Blue Line, running from Old Town to San Ysidro .
???"All stations will be totally upgraded with new amenities," says Rob Schupp, MTS's director of marketing and communications. "One of the nicest features will be 'next train' signs telling people exactly when trolleys will arrive."
As part of the $620 million project (funded by federal, state and local sources, including the region's half-cent Transnet sales tax), MTS will retire the system's original trolley cars, some of which have logged more than two million miles. The new rides-57 low-floor, easier-access models-will ring in at around $233 million.
The current overhaul is set for completion by 2015. By 2050, hundreds of miles of new trolley tracks will be added, including a Mid-Coast line extending to University City, with stops at Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Clairemont and UCSD. That project breaks ground around 2015, Schupp says.
Currently celebrating its 125th year of service to the region, MTS is in the early stages of revitalizing San Diego's once thriving streetcar service, which began on July 3, 1886, with an open-air streetcar being pulled along 5th Avenue, downtown, by a pair of horses. At the time, the cost per ride was a nickel.
In late-August, MTS revived a piece of that history, introducing service on a restored electric streetcar that had picked up its last San Diego passenger in 1949, before rusting for decades on a lot in Lake Tahoe.
The streetcar will operate weekends and holidays on a downtown loop known as the Silver Line, with stops at San Diego City College, America Plaza and the 12th and Imperial Transit Station.