SDUT: Can $2.1B Trolley Extension Draw New Riders, New Thinking?

October 7, 2016 – San Diego Union-Tribune – Joshua Emerson Smith reports: As the region readies for construction of a trolley line nearly 30 years in the making, officials are touting the project as a potential game-changer for the way residents view public transportation.

By 2021, the 11-mile Mid-Coast Trolley extension is expected to connect downtown San Diego to the sprawling job center that is University City — theoretically encouraging walkable, urban development along the route while enticing new riders onto the rail instead of driving.

However, this outlook is far from a guaranteed payoff for the roughly $2.1 billion undertaking, which is being described as the largest of its kind in the region’s history.

It’s projected that many of the trolley line’s riders will simply migrate from other forms of public transit, such as commuter rail or bus, and that any substantial gains in new ridership will take decades to achieve.

“This is a great step forward, and we fully support this project. We just wish it didn’t take 30 years to build,” said Nicole Capretz, executive director of the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign. “We also hope the line is fast enough to compete with car commutes.”

By 2030, the trolley extension is expected to attract 13,500 new trips a day out of 361,000 for the entire system, including buses — causing average daily car trips to dip modestly from 21,636,000 to 21,622,000.

Read full piece here.