San Diego Trolley Nation’s Most Popular Light Rail

The system's ridership benefited from an extension project and free transit for youth.

1 minute read

November 30, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Red San Diego Trolley light rail train at station with passengers walking on platform and Spanish-style dome building in background.

Walter Cicchetti / Adobe Stock

Transit riders in San Diego took over 34 million trips on the city’s Trolley light rail system in 2022, more than any other light rail system in the country, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). As Andrew Keatts reports in Axios, this is still lower than the Trolley’s pre-pandemic ridership numbers (the system saw 38 million trips in 2019).

The Trolley opened an 11-mile extension of the Blue Line in November 2021, prompting a 66 percent jump in ridership on that line. According to the article, “The San Diego Association of Governments also began offering free transit ridership to anyone under age 18 on May 1, 2022.”

Elsewhere, “Los Angeles' light rail system had the second most unlinked trips — counting each transfer as an additional ride: 31.5 million — and Boston's came in third at 30.7 million.” San Diego continues to lead the nation in ridership based on preliminary APTA data from the first half of 2023.

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