UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley Extension Debuts Sunday

One of the biggest infrastructure projects in San Diego's history plans to open to the public on Nov. 21, 2021

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What to Know

  • The Mid-Coast Trolley Project -- one of the largest infrastructure projects in San Diego's history -- extends UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley service from Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego north to the University community, serving major stops along the way
  • Construction on the 11-mile project began 5+ years ago
  • MTS said trolley rides will be free all day Sunday at all three trolley lines

An ambitious transportation project that extends one of the trolley lines in San Diego County will finally open Sunday.

The Mid-Coast Trolley Project extends the MTS Blue Line Trolley service from the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego to the UC San Diego community.

Along the way, the extended line will serve major activity hubs including Mission Bay Park, the VA Medical Center, and University Towne Center. Nine new Trolley stations are part of the project.

“We've been working on it for about 20 years. Number one, I think that being a one-seat ride from the border, I think is really key to making this a success,” San Diego MTS Rail Division COO Wayne Terry said.

The first trial run of the project’s new tracks took place in June.

The Mid-Coast Trolley reached a major milestone when it successfully tested its first run on its new tracks. NBC 7’s Audra Stafford has more on the momentous occasion.

“For the first time in our history of 61 years we will be totally connected from literally the border, San Ysidro, to UTC and this will make us an integral part of the community and it will make the community an integral part of who we are,” UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said.

The trolley will begin service on the extension at 5 a.m. All trolley rides will be free on Sunday.

San Diego resident Miguel Estrada told NBC 7 he takes public transportation as its vital in getting to work.

"As the population grows, with higher gas prices, transit can really be that option for people needing to get where they need to go," he said. "That’s how I get around everywhere. It’s very vital to my work and everything because I commute every day."

"I hope that a lot of people use it and that it will be worthwhile and maybe they’ll expand to other parts of the county and maybe to the beach," said Elaine Burrell, a Point Loma Resident.

Major Service Changes

Passengers should plan ahead as many bus route changes go into effect along with the new Trolley extension to UTC alignment.

Coinciding with the new Trolley extension to UTC are modifications to many Metropolitan Transit System bus routes to provide greater access from nearby communities to the new Trolley extension.

Two new routes will also be introduced. Changes will be implemented on Nov. 21. 

Key Changes:

  • UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley (South Bay, Downtown, Old Town, UC San Diego, UTC):

The UC San Diego Blue Line will be extended from America Plaza to UTC, serving nine new Trolley Stations. Service frequency north of America Plaza will be every 15 minutes, seven days/week. Frequency south of America Plaza will remain at every 7.5 minutes on weekdays. Note that there are no changes to Orange or Green Line schedules.

  • Route 8 (Balboa Avenue – Pacific Beach):

Route 8 will be extended from Pacific Beach east to the new Balboa Avenue Transit Center, via Grand Avenue. The frequency will be increased to every 15 minutes on weekdays and 20 minutes on weekends.

  • Route 9 (Old Town – Pacific Beach):

Route 9 will be shortened in Pacific Beach on weekdays and Saturdays to end at Ingraham St. and Garnet Avenue. Service along Garnet Ave. between Ingraham St. and Mission Blvd. will remain available on weekdays on Route 27. Route 9 service frequency will be every 20 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on Saturdays. Sunday service will remain the same as current.

  • Route 27 (Pacific Beach – Kearny Mesa)

Route 27 frequency will increase to every 30 minutes seven days/week (with the new Sunday service). It will serve the Balboa Avenue Transit Center. Also, Route 27 will be changed to operate between Balboa Ave. and Clairemont Mesa Blvd. on Kearny Villa Rd. instead of Convoy Street.

  • Route 30 (Old Town – UTC – VA Medical Center)

Route 30 will be shortened to operate north of Old Town Transit Center only. (Service between Old Town and Downtown will be offered by both the Blue and Green Lines) Route 30 will also be adjusted in University City to operate between UC San Diego and UTC along Nobel Dr. instead of La Jolla Village Drive.

  • NEW - Route 43 (Balboa Avenue – Kearny Mesa)

Route 43 will provide service between the Kearny Mesa Transit Center and Balboa Avenue Transit Center, via Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Clairemont Dr., and Balboa Avenue. Service will operate every 15 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on weekends.

  • Route 50 (discontinued)

Service will continue to be available on all Route 50 street segments via Route 41, Route 105, and a re-routed Route 105. Service between Downtown and Clairemont will be available via the UC San Diego Blue Line and a transfer to Route 105 at Clairemont Drive Station or new Route 43 at the Balboa Avenue Transit Center.

  • NEW - Route 140 (Balboa Avenue – Downtown La Jolla)

New Express Route 140 will operate between the Balboa Avenue Transit Center and downtown La Jolla, via Interstate 5 and La Jolla Parkway. Service will operate every 30 minutes, seven days/week, with an extra 15-minute frequency during weekday peaks.

  • Route 150 (discontinued)

Service is replaced by the UC San Diego Blue Line between Downtown, Old Town, UC San Diego and UTC. 

  • Route 201/202 (UTC Transit Center – UC San Diego)

Routing will be changed on the north side to operate between UC San Diego and UTC along La Jolla Village Drive instead of Voigt Dr., Regents Rd., and Executive Drive. Transit service to northern University City will be replaced by the UC San Diego Blue Line.

  • NEW - Route 985 (UC San Diego – N. Torrey Pines).

The route will connect the UC San Diego Blue Line at the UCSD Central Campus station with the business parks off of North Torrey Pines Road, operating weekday peak hours only with a frequency of every 15-20 minutes.

  • NEW – Airport Shuttle (Old Town Transit Center – San Diego Airport) San Diego International Airport will begin a new shuttle route between Old Town Transit Center and Terminals 1 & 2.
The Mid-Coast Trolley expansion is making its debut with free fares. NBC 7's Kelvin Henry has more.

The Mid-Coast Trolley Project

It’s been a long road for Mid-Coast Trolley Project.

The projected cost of the project was $2.17 billion, but city leaders said they are going to come in under that mark.

“Our total budget is $2.17 billion dollars, and we are currently coming in about $13 million under budget,” SANDAG Director of Engineering Sharon Humphreys said.

A priority of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), it is one of the largest infrastructure projects in San Diego’s history. The extension of the Trolley line aims to improve regional transit access to major educational, medical, and employment areas.

Construction began in fall 2016.

Funding for the project was included in the voter-approved TransNet measure, a local, half-cent sales tax hike that supports transportation projects. It’s part of the TransNet Early Action Program, meaning it’s one of the highest-priority projects in the region.

To learn more about the project and each step along the way, visit this website.

San Diego's Mid-Coast Trolley Expansion Project is set to be completed by the end of the year. Construction has been going on for a long time, and it has helped bring a lot of jobs -- even for small businesses. NBC 7's Ashley Matthews explains.
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