DSU agreed to provide an easement for the tunnel and station and to contribute to the operating costs of the station by providing maintenance outside the underground areas and using campus police to assist in station security. When all was said and done, the MTDB adopted the loop route to serve the campus. The decision was partly one of added value for added cost, because, in the end, the south side loop tunnel option proved to be more cost-effective than the freeway routing and supported the objectives of integrating the light rail stations into communities and activity centers.
However, the decision was based as much or more on the ability to resolve a number of technical issues early in the project’s development, the university’s commitment to the project and the hard-earned consensus from the community that the benefits of the loop route outweighed any lingering issues or additional costs.
As design and construction proceeded, MTDB and the North County Transit District merged with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which completed construction of the project in July of 2005.
The Green Line
When the 5.9-mile Mission Valley East segment and its four new stations were completed in July of 2005, it allowed for the inauguration of the San Diego Trolley’s third line — the Green Line.
As predicted, the line proved to be an immediate success, particularly with students at SDSU. Ridership is on track to exceed projections for the year 2015.
The completed Green Line also has succeeded by what planners consider the most important measure — generating new transit riders. Within a few months of opening, the Green Line was generating about 18,500 daily trips, 7,200 of which were taken by new riders.
A rider survey conducted by SANDAG in October of 2005 — just four months after the completed Green Line opened — demonstrated that the line was attracting new ridership to transit.
While bus use at SDSU Transit Center had decreased slightly, the opening of the Green Line allowed for the total transit ridership as measured at the school’s transit center to more than triple, from 2,200 weekday trips to more than 7,100 weekday trips in November 2005.
Forty percent of Green Line users did not use transit at all in the previous year, including the 25 percent who relied previously on automobiles. Existing transit riders who used the Green Line were becoming more frequent transit users.
As of October 2005, the SDSU Transit Center was generating nearly 4,900 new trips each day. This corresponds to about 2,000 cars no longer driven to SDSU each day. A subsequent survey conducted by SANDAG in October of 2006 — 16 months after the Green Line opening — revealed information about the evolving ridership.
The Green Line attracted new transit riders, with 31 percent not riding any form of transit a year before, and many longer-term transit users riding more often. Approximately 17 percent of surveyed transit riders indicated they had increased their use of transit in 2006. The 31 percent who did not ride transit a year before translated into more than 6,200 new weekday transit trips. The No. 1 reason cited by SDSU station users for riding transit was not having a vehicle available. Avoiding traffic and parking were the next most cited reasons. Of those 55 percent of SDSU station users who had a vehicle available, avoiding traffic and parking were identified by 63 percent as the main reason for riding transit.
It took 30 years and many tough decisions to complete, but by every measure the Mission Valley East Trolley Extension and the Green Line as a whole have been a success. In 2007, the facility was given the prestigious Project of the Year award for the State of California by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In 2008, the ASCE has again honored the effort, naming it one of five finalists for the international Project of the Year award.
Nevertheless, SANDAG and the Metropolitan Transit System continue to push for improvement on the line, supporting programs to boost ridership and continually bring new riders to transit.