Oldest Light Rail System in the Country Celebrates 30th Birthday


san-diego-light-railThe San Diego Trolley began it’s light rail service 30 years ago on July 26, 1981 going from Downtown San Diego to the Mexican border in San Ysidro. That makes San Diego the oldest light-rail system in the United States and a model for other cities to copy in the years since then.

It’s hard to believe the popularity of electric rail service gave way completely to city buses throughout the country until the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Service (SDMTS) reintroduced rail in 1981. What would America look like today had we continued modernizing the light rail system instead of replacing it with buses?

Here in San Diego electric rail service started in 1890 but began to give way to buses starting in 1937. If you want to learn more about the history of transit in San Diego, try to find a copy of this past Saturday’s Union Tribune, which included an insert of a nice picture timeline on San Diego transit history.

If you can’t find the insert, read this article in the Union Tribune about the history of San Diego transit going back to 1886 and the celebrations being held in the coming days.

Despite having the oldest light-rail system, the SDMTS and local citizens have done a very nice job at keeping it looking new. I interact with out-of-town visitors all the time on my San Diego sightseeing tour and I continually hear comments about the ease of using our San Diego trolley service and ‘how clean it is’. For those who haven’t used it, I encourage them to try it out since it only costs $5 for a day pass to ride the trolleys and buses in San Diego.

Let’s make a toast for 30 more years of great light rail service in San Diego!

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One Response to “Oldest Light Rail System in the Country Celebrates 30th Birthday”

  1. If you wondered as I did what is the difference between street cars, light rail, and heavy rail, there is a nice explanation on Wikipedia

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