MTS: It’s Possible to Extend Trolley to Airport and Beaches

by on December 20, 2021 · 16 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

New trolley extension to San Diego International Airport would open up future extensions to Point Loma, Liberty Station and beach communities

By Lauryn Schroeder / San Diego Union-Tribune / Dec. 17, 2021

A Metropolitan Transit System study released Thursday, Dec. 16, has determined that the long-desired extension trolley to the San Diego International Airport is possible and can be completed within the next decade.  According to a press release issued by the Metropolitan Transit System, or MTS, transportation experts from the international consultancy company Mott MacDonald presented multiple construction options to the MTS board of directors as part of its preliminary feasibility study.

San Diego County Supervisor and MTS board chair Nathan Fletcher said the trolley would boost tourism and create jobs, while offering additional transportation options to key areas in San Diego. “San Diegans have always wanted a Trolley connection to the airport and now is the time to move forward,” Fletcher said in a press statement. “We have an opportunity to invest in good jobs and build a world-class rail connection to our airport that will greatly benefit not only visitors to San Diego but hard-working San Diegans who currently have no rail connection to the airport.”

The Mott MacDonald study analyzed three different options for construction, an elevated guideway off Laurel Street, and two underground options at Hawthorne Street.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Webb December 20, 2021 at 1:40 pm

Anybody have a link to the study?


Frank Gormlie December 20, 2021 at 1:46 pm

I looked for one on the MTS website but drew a blank.


Vern December 20, 2021 at 2:33 pm

From an MTS News Release emailed 12.16.21:

MTS Unveiled Trolley-to-Airport Feasibility Study

Direct underground Trolley connection to airport also offers the ability to extend into Point Loma, Liberty Station, beach communities

Download Study Images Here:

San Diego – The Metropolitan Transit System has determined that the long-desired Trolley extension to the San Diego International Airport is feasible, and can be built in the next ten years. Like so many cities throughout the U.S. and globally, providing light-rail service to the airport would enable greater connectivity for San Diegans, tourists, and our binational community. Transportation experts from Mott MacDonald presented multiple options for construction that were evaluated as part of the preliminary feasibility study to the MTS Board of Directors.


Paul Webb December 21, 2021 at 2:44 pm

It there anything available besides these pictures that just show an arrow to the airport and an assumed travel time? Any analysis or cost projections?

Mott McDonald is a pretty reputable firm. It’s possible they gave something this vague and insubstantial, but I’d really like to see the full report.


Peter from South O December 21, 2021 at 5:03 pm

There is more detailed information from the study (report) in this PR, including details of where the stations would be and the potential for future beach access and direct line to the future CV convention center:


Paul Webb December 22, 2021 at 9:53 am

That’s really just Blah Blah Blah. I really like to see the study to learn their assumptions, their cost estimates, proposed routes, etc. This is just a puff piece.


Peter from South O December 22, 2021 at 11:36 am

It is not a common practice for MTS to release their internal consultant-generated reports to the public without a FOIR.


Paul Webb December 22, 2021 at 11:45 am

Public agency, publicly paid for study, nothing proprietary as there is no competing entity. It’s absolutely stupid to force the public to go through the FOIA process to see it. I’ve got a call into MTS to see if I can get a copy. If not, I guess I’ll file a FOIA request. Stupid, stupid stupid.


Peter from South O December 22, 2021 at 7:07 pm

I suggest that you bypass MTS and go directly to SANDAG. They have a studies and publications page with a separate section listing past airport mobility and access studies by contractors; the new one is not listed . . . perhaps that would be the easiest way.


Frank Gormlie December 22, 2021 at 8:59 pm

Thanks Peter for filling in the gaps.

Paul Webb December 23, 2021 at 10:04 am

So I contacted MTS yesterday and, to my surprise given the holiday week, I got a prompt response. According to their media contact, the report itself is a draft but a final report will be available in January and will become public. He also provided a link to the powerpoint presentation:

Paul Webb December 20, 2021 at 2:29 pm

Yeah, I couldn’t find it either. Nothing about it on the Mott McDonald web site either, but I was amused to see that MM was the consultant on the Crenshaw/LAX light rail project. I grew up one block off Crenshaw, which, when I was a small child, had a street car line running down the center of the very wide boulevard. I don’t think it went all the way to the airport but I know it went down Crenshaw for some distance and then (I think) went along Florence and into Inglewood. It was torn out and now it’s being re-built again.

The trolley to the airport only makes sense if you could keep it going past the airport and somehow continue up the Nimitz corridor, through Mission Bay and then loop back to the Balboa station, or somewhere else along the Blue line.

Of course, buying the ROW would be an enormous cost if you had to go through any developed land in Point Loma, so it would have to be restricted to existing ROW as much as possible – say N. Harbor Dr. to Nimitz (there goes the bike lanes) and then Sunset Cliffs to Ingraham. Bridges across the river and through the bay would be an additional huge cost. Through Mission Bay would all be on public property, but if federal money was involved you’d have big Section 4(f) problems.

I’m really curious to see what the study contemplated.


Sam December 20, 2021 at 3:26 pm

Why oh why is it so important for these people to try to go underground for what could easily be handled with a dedicated express bus line for practically no money at all. And to tunnel under a fault line no less? What has happened to common sense in this country?


Peter from South O December 20, 2021 at 3:49 pm

The dedicated express bus line already exists (992). Goes down Broadway past all the hotels, stops at Santa Fe Depot where the trolley lines come together, then loops around the airport terminals.
This whole thing is a boondoggle. It’s a lot more comfortable with luggage to take a bus that has luggage racks (yes, they bought special vehicles JUST for this route) than to get on a sometimes standing room only trolley car.
Just recently MTS added a shuttle that goes directly from Old Town to the terminals as well.


Vern December 22, 2021 at 8:37 am

Apparently, Colin Parent, from Circulate San Diego has access to the feasibility study:


Gary Huber December 21, 2021 at 7:37 pm

I imagine that if they ever spiff up the Midway District, extending a line to that area would be a no-brainer.


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