San Diego Trolley

If you’re traveling without a car in San Diego as a local or visitor, the San Diego Trolley is one of the easiest ways to get around. Great for commuting too!
San Diego Trolley
Affordable & Sustainable
Where to Go
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What to Expect
When to Use It
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Things to Know Before
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Highlights

Where You Can Go
Best Time to Use
Cost
Tips
Where You Can Go
Best Time to Use
Cost
Tips

Affordable, Sustainable Travel on San Diego’s Trolley System

San Diego Trolley Passing by the Convention Center in DowntownAmerica Plaza Trolley Station in Core Columbia San Diego

San Diego is a large city with so much to offer, and when you’re visiting (or commuting), you’ll need a reliable way to get around that’s quick and affordable. The San Diego Trolley connects many of San Diego’s top tourist destinations, as well as local neighborhoods, and is safe, easy to use, and reliable.

Know that the San Diego Trolley and the Old Town Trolley Tour are not the same thing. While both are enjoyed by visitors and local commuters, the San Diego Trolley is a series of light rail trolleys and trolley lines used to get around town.

San Diego had an extensive trolley network in the late 19th and early 20th century, although those initial streetcars were eventually discontinued as cars became more mainstream. However, demand for more comprehensive public transit resurged in the 1970s, and San Diego opened their trolley system in 1981. The San Diego Trolley has been a key part of the city’s infrastructure ever since.

Local Tips
Self-serve Service
Remember that the San diego trolley is a self-serve. meaning you buy your tickets from kiosks that are located at stations.

The San Diego Trolley currently has three main lines - the Blue, Orange, and Green lines. Currently, the Blue line runs south from downtown to the Mexican border. The Orange Line runs east of downtown to La Mesa and El Cajon. The Green Line runs north of downtown and then east through Mission Valley, meeting up with the Orange Line in El Cajon and running further to Santee.

The city is presently extending the Blue Line north to La Jolla, UC San Diego and UTC Mall. This extension is scheduled to open in 2021. They also run the Silver Line, which is a downtown circulator that connects the three lines. This line only runs on selected days when the system is experiencing high volumes of traffic (usually weekends and holidays).

The San Diego Trolley is very safe and clean, with roomy, well-lit cars and stations. Many of the trolley stops connect to San Diego’s bus lines, which are run by the same transportation agency.

The Metropolitan Transit System has been San Diego’s main public transportation agency since the 1880s and operates a comprehensive network of trains, buses, and jitneys. The trolley also connects to other popular public transit services, such as the Coaster commuter train and the Pacific Surfliner Amtrak train.

Since traffic in San Diego can get very congested, the Trolley is often the quickest way to get from point A to point B. It’s also a safe alternative to driving if you’re going to be enjoying San Diego’s incredible nightlife.

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Where You Can Go on The San Diego Trolley

The San Diego Trolley has stops in many of San Diego’s most popular tourist destinations as well as many of its most populated suburbs. It’s important to note that the San Diego Trolley doesn’t go to every neighborhood or travel destination in the city. However, you can connect to buses or use rideshare services to fill in the gaps as you travel around San Diego.

If you’re planning on exploring all that downtown San Diego has to offer, the Trolley is one of the best ways to get there. All three of San Diego’s Trolley lines meet in the downtown area. The Green Line has stops in Seaport Village in the Embarcadero, the Gaslamp District, and the Convention Center area. The Blue and Orange Lines have stops in the East Village as well as the Civic Center area.

The Orange Line is used mainly by commuters, as it runs through San Diego’s eastern suburbs and doesn’t pass through any major commercial districts. However, the Blue Line and the Green Line both run to many of San Diego’s most popular destinations.

The Blue Line currently connects downtown with the city’s southern communities, including Barrio Logan, National City, and Chula Vista. The San Ysidro station, which is the line’s end point, provides easy access to Tijuana, the Mexico border and the Las Americas premium outlets, which is a popular shopping destination.

A Blue line extension is currently under construction north of the city and is scheduled to open in 2021. This extension will run through the Mission Bay and La Jolla areas. When this extension opens, it will connect to the University of California, San Diego as well as the UTC Mall.

The Green Line also connects to many popular tourist destinations outside of downtown. From the downtown area, it runs north to Little Italy and Old Town, two neighborhoods that are known for their dining and drinking options. From there, the trolley runs east, connecting to both Fashion Valley mall and Mission Valley mall, as well as to SDSU Stadium and San Diego State University.

There are some key destinations that the San Diego Trolley doesn’t serve. The Trolley doesn’t go to Balboa Park or the San Diego Zoo, and it also doesn’t go to any of the popular beach neighborhoods, like Coronado, Ocean Beach, and Pacific Beach.

The Trolley also does not connect to North County destinations like the San Diego Zoo Safari Park or LEGOLAND. However, if you are looking to visit any of these neighborhoods or attractions, there are commuter trains, buses, and rideshare options to get you there without having to rent a car.

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What to Expect on The San Diego Trolley

The San Diego Trolley is very safe and easy to use. You can generally expect a very pleasant experience when using the Trolley to get around, regardless of where you are or the time of day. As with any public transit system, you should always be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Many of the Trolley stations are in very walkable areas. Some also have attached transit centers where you can transfer to local bus lines. Some of the MTS transit centers also have park and ride centers where you can safely leave your car.

Before you ride the Trolley, you’ll need to purchase a Compass Card. A Compass Card is reusable and can store both individual fares and long-term passes. The Compass Card can be used on both the Trolley and San Diego’s bus system.

There are two ways to purchase a Compass Card. The first is to purchase one at the station from a self-serve kiosk ticket vending machine. The kiosks are clearly marked. Here, you can pay with either cash or card. You can also download the Compass Card app and purchase fares on your mobile phone with a credit or debit card.

Once you have your pass, you’ll be able to board the Trolley. There are no fare gates or conductors at the stations, although you will need to tap your card at the fare box for validation. Conductors may come through and check your fare while you’re on the train, which is why it’s so important to have a ticket before you board. If you’re caught riding without a ticket, you could be subject to fines.

Before getting on the train, be sure to check and make sure you are on the right platform. Each platform is labeled with the direction of the train. Each train is also labeled with its final destination on the front and side of the cars. As you ride, listen for the voiceover that announces the name of each station as you arrive.

Best Time to Use the San Diego Trolley

The San Diego Trolley runs from approximately 4:30 AM until 12:30 PM. During most of the day, trolleys arrive every 15 to 20 minutes. Early in the morning and late at night, trolleys run every 30 minutes. The Blue Line, which sees the most ridership, runs approximately every 7 minutes between 6 AM and 7 PM.

It’s best to ride the Trolley during the day and early evening, when the trains come most often. Trains are likely to be most crowded during the morning and afternoon rush hours, but you’ll likely still be able to get a seat. You can still use the Trolley at night to get to your destination, you’ll just need to plan for additional travel time.

Be sure to check the Trolley schedule before you go to give yourself enough time to get to your destination. You can check the Trolley schedule using the Compass Cloud app or the MTS website. There are also timetables posted at each station.

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How Much Does It Cost to Ride the San Diego Trolley

The San Diego Trolley is a very affordable way to get around town. One-way fares are $2.50 for adults and kids and $1.25 for senior, disabled, and Medicare customers. There is also a $2 fee for purchasing a new Compass card.

If you’re going to be using the Trolley multiple times in one day, you may want to consider purchasing a day pass. Day passes cost $6. Those who are going to be in San Diego for an extended period of time can also purchase a regional 30-day pass, which is $72. The MTS also offers discounted 30 day passes for seniors and disabled customers as well as students and youth customers. These monthly passes are $23.

Be sure to always double check directly with the Metropolitan Transit System for any updates to the latest pricing for the San Diego Trolley.

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Things to Know Before Taking the San Diego Trolley

Disabled Accessibility
Disabled Accessibility
No Alcohol
No Alcohol
No Smoking
No Smoking
Public Transportation
Public Transportation
Stroller Accessible
Stroller Accessible
Trash Cans Available
Trash Cans Available

If you’ve never taken the San Diego Trolley before, it’s important to be prepared. Luckily, the Trolley is very accessible and easy to ride. Here’s what else you should know before you take the San Diego Trolley.

Download the Compass Card App Ahead of Time

While you can get a physical Compass Card at any Trolley station, you can save time and paper by using the Compass Cloud app. This app is available for both Apple and Android devices. With the app, you can purchase fares from anywhere on your mobile phone using your credit card, debit card, or PayPal account.

With the app, you can purchase passes ahead of time and activate them when you ride the Trolley. The app will also save your payment information for future purchases. If you need to check the Trolley or bus schedules, you can do so easily through the app.

Accessibility for Disabled Riders

The San Diego Trolley is set up to be accessible for riders that are in wheelchairs or otherwise have limited mobility. The station platforms line up with the floor of the Trolley cars, so disabled customers can board without climbing any stairs. There is also Braille signage at every station.

There are designated areas for disabled and senior riders in every Trolley car. Riders should be prepared to give up their seats for disabled and senior riders as needed.

Parking Near the San Diego Trolley

Many San Diego Trolley stations have park and ride areas. This is a great option if you do not want to search or pay for parking in San Diego’s crowded downtown area. Parking at these Trolley stations is free. Note that you can only park at these Trolley stations for up to 24 hours.

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