Tips for Riding the San Diego Trolley

How Much It Costs, Where to Park, and All Your Other Questions, Answered

The San Diego Trolley
Christopher MacKechnie

If you've been to San Diego, then you've likely seen the red train cars zipping about downtown and surrounding areas. While the name of the San Diego Trolley may remind you of a children's toy, the actual train, itself, is an essential part of the city's public transportation system and has been for decades. It can be a helpful means of transportation during your next vacation if you can grasp the ins and outs.

About the San Diego Trolley

The San Diego Trolley is a light-rail public transportation system serving greater San Diego. It began operations with the first line—the Blue Line—running from downtown south to the International Border. The east line—Orange—was added in 1986, extending to El Cajon in 1989, the Bayside in 1990, and Santee in 1995. The Blue line extended to Mission Valley in 1997, and in 2005, the line extended all the way to Grossmont Center, which is now the Green Line.

These days, the bright-red train is a staple of the city. Even in car-centric San Diego, the locals rely on these electric-powered trolleys for their daily commutes. On special event days, such as Chargers or Padres games, the number of people riding the trolley may even reach as high as 225,000 per day.

How to Use It

There are more than 50 stations included in the San Diego Trolley system. Major bus routes serve the major Trolley transit centers and the downtown station is adjacent to a San Diego Coaster (another commuter rail service) stop. 

The San Diego Trolley is self-serve, meaning you buy your tickets from kiosks that are located at stations. A one-way adult fare is $2.50. There is no round-trip fare, but you can purchase a day pass for $6 and ride unlimited rides for 24 hours. There are no gates or turnstiles to board the trolleys, but transit police do patrol for random fare inspection, so make sure you have valid tickets or you could be thrown off at the next stop.

The San Diego Trolley is, indeed, wheelchair accessible. The older cars have wheelchair lifts while newer cars, primarily on the Green Line, have ground level ramps.

A San Diego Trolley
Christopher MacKechnie

Parking

You can ride the San Diego Trolley even if you have a car. There are paid parking lots near all stations in the downtown core and in more suburban areas, most (but not all) have free parking. There are 18,000 spaces at Qualcomm Stadium, available during non-event days (pro tip: taking public transportation to Qualcomm Stadium on game days can also ease the headache of dealing with game-day traffic and parking). 

How Often Do the San Diego Trolleys Run?

On all lines, the Trolleys run every 15 minutes, seven days a week. They run every 30 minutes after midnight and on weekend mornings and evenings. In addition, the Blue Line runs every 7 minutes during weekday rush hours.

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