Trains began traveling early Sunday morning on the long-awaited line of carts connecting the old city to La Jolla, which regional leaders are declaring a monumental project for Greater San Diego.
The most expensive infrastructure project in the area’s history, nearly $ 2.2 billion, the new 11-mile line brings a light rail for the first time to La Jolla, the University of California San Diego, Mission Bay Park, Pacific Beach and Clermont.
But perhaps more importantly, any stop on the city’s other trolley routes gets a big boost by connecting to these and other popular destinations like Westfield UTC and VA Medical Center.
The nine-station line also corrects notable defects in local passage by connecting the trolley system to the largest university in the area – University of California San Diego – and the No. 1 employment center – City University and the Golden Triangle.
“It creates new jobs, new opportunities, new access to medical care and more educational opportunities for so many residents in the San Diego-Tijuana area,” said National Mayor Alejandra Sotlo-Solis.
Speaking to thousands who gathered Sunday afternoon at UCSD’s Warren Field to celebrate the new line, Sotlo-Solis said that 20 years ago as a student at the University of California at San Diego she spent two hours a day getting to campus to fulfill her academic degree dream.
“What took me two hours from the national city – a bus line, a trolley line and a walk up Gilman Drive – now takes less than 40 minutes,” she said. “It will now be even easier to meet those dreams for the next generation of workers and students.”
University Chancellor Pradip was eliminated and said the new railway line would help the university shed its image as an isolated campus that most San Diegoers never see, and turn it into the “public” university it always was meant to be.
“It does not matter a game, it is a dream come true,” he said during the celebration on Sunday.
Hussela said the cart would also flow the UCSD to more of the area’s neighborhoods by allowing students and faculty easier access to them.
“It extends our campus to all areas adjacent to all stations beyond the trolley line,” he said.
Large railway bridges recently built over parts of campus to accommodate the new trolley line are also a boost.
“It adds some pizza to campus and makes it more exciting,” Hussela said.
Hundreds of residents took advantage of free travel all day on Sunday on the new line and the rest of the cart system. Local leaders say they hope the promotion effort will allow people to see how the recently expanded cart system can fit into their lives.
“I think for me it’s a one-time thing because it’s the first day of the train,” said university resident Sam Wu. “It’s convenient, but to my job I’m close to where I live.”
Wu said he probably would not use the new line again until his parents visited and wanted to go to dinner downtown or in little Italy, places that are easier to reach by trolley than by car.
La Jolla Keith Wahl resident was much more enthusiastic.
“Right now I work from home, but I see it as a lot of benefit for mobility,” he said. “I positively support it. I think it will bring a lot of people to university and it’s great for VA patients.”
Wahl and his wife began their journey around 8am on Sunday morning from the final stop of the new line at the UTC Mall, driving it all the way to the Old City so they could eat nearby at the popular breakfast’s breakfast. Then they went back upstairs, he said.
The new line lasted 20 years of planning and five years of construction, which included overcoming many obstacles such as bridges and tunnels and overpasses that had to be created in challenging locations.
“I’m amazed at the engineering and how they managed to do it,” Wahl said.
Mira Mesa resident Lester Dronick said he was excited to travel on the new line, and suggested local planners start focusing immediately on the expansion to the Mirmer area.
“I love mass transportation and I use it a lot, especially as an elderly person,” said Dronik, 71.
The couple from City University Matt and Heather Eisenberg, who made a round trip to the Old City on Sunday morning, said they were not sure what they thought of the new cart.
“I think there are pros and cons.” Said Matt. “Are they going to hire increased security for all the people who will now come to these neighborhoods more easily?”
Heather said she had heard skeptics say people would not adopt the new stroller, but she said millennials generally have a more positive attitude about mass transportation than older people.
Al Cajun resident Joe Cortez rode the cart Sunday because he was curious to see how it was changing travel patterns to work, especially for students at the University of San Diego.
Cortez rides a bus near campus and said he thinks many students will move to the cart because it is faster.
“I was watching the progress of the trains, so I was expecting to see it,” he said.
It is estimated that about 60 percent of UCSD’s students and faculty already arrive on campus by some form of transportation other than driving a car, university officials say.
UCSD students receive free tickets for all public transportation as part of the student fees they pay, making local officials optimistic that students will ride on the new cart in large numbers.
Ensinites Mayor Catherine Blixfire, who heads the district planning agency that coordinated the construction of the new line, said Sunday was a day to celebrate and also to look ahead.
“Not so many times a $ 2 billion, nine-mile, 11-mile transportation line is opened,” she said.
She stressed that planning for the new line began in 1986, making it vital that local residents let their constituents know today what types of projects they would like them to build in the next 40 years.
For details on the new line, visit KeepSanDiegoMoving.com/MidCoast.
Local officials have chosen to use the literal nickname “UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley Extension” as the official name of the new line. Many community leaders refer to it as the “La Jolla Line” or the “UCSD Line”.