Trolley reaches the "Q"

The new trolley line extension opened with much fanfare ... hopefully, there will be rider fares as well.

by Laura Meldrum


It was with great fanfare and community pride that the Mission Valley Trolley Extension was dedicated at the Qualcomm Stadium Station on the afternoon of November 20. A spectrum of VIP's were there, from the San Diego Chicken to Gordon Linton, Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. Jane Dumas gave a Native American Trolley Blessing in both Kumeyaay, her tribal tongue, and English. She reminisced on how, as a girl, she rode through the San Diego River Valley in a red wagon; now she could ride through in a red trolley.

Linton gave the Keynote address and remarks were heard from several other city officials including San Diego Council member and staunch trolley line defender Valerie Stallings. Everyone expressed the desire to get people out of their cars and onto public transportation.

All were happy that the line was finished, not only in time for the Super Bowl, but in time for holiday shopping. There was a ceremonial ribbon cutting, a catered lunch buffet and free rides on the trolley to the Old Town Station and back.

We've always been told that public transportation is an environmentally good decision. After all, it combats pollution and traffic congestion. But a December 10, 1995 Union-Tribune article states,

"Only 3,240 cars per day will be off area roadways 10 years from now because of the Mission Valley line, according to estimates in the project's environmental impact report. That represents a negligible .04 percent of the expected 6.8 million average daily auto trips countywide and less than 1 percent of Mission Valley traffic in 2005."

This trolley line extension has faced some opposition. It has been called "environmentally destructive" and "environmentally unsound". Representatives from the River Valley Preservation Project showed that the project would harm 17 acres of wildlife habitat. This is far worse than the 6.4 acres of habitat destruction estimated in Metropolitan Transit Development Board studies. It was feared that a channeling plan that deepened the San Diego River bottom up to 200 feet through the old Stardust golf course and up to 300 feet through the River Valley golf course would damage the natural ecosystem of the river. With this new river channeling, all hydraulic studies have shown that the project now worsens flood conditions in West Mission Valley.

As a lover of wetlands and a proponent of public transportation, I had trouble taking sides in this trolley line controversy. The Old Town Station is great. There's plenty of free parking and it's well shaded under the I-5 overpass. After the line was extended north to Old Town, I felt quite lucky to be able to take the trolley downtown rather than fight traffic and struggle for a place to park. Now we can take the trolley east through Mission Valley.

A ride in review


The first station on the new line is Morena/Linda Vista. Here, there is another large parking lot for park-and-riders. As you continue east, river views are plentiful. I was really excited about the views of the river that you could get during the trolley ride. Hidden by development and dense undergrowth, this historic waterway is usually concealed from us as we zoom past in our cars. Most of us forget the river is there ­ except for when it floods and ties up traffic.

Directly south and below the tracks is a 25-acre wildlife preserve which extends along both sides of the river. Trolley officials were required to build the preserve to make up for damage caused by the trolley project. Plants like coast live oaks and cottonwood trees were added. I'm sure that we'll be hearing of bird sightings along here.

Soon you pass the new golf course, and then come to Fashion Valley where the station is in the southwest corner of the parking lot. From this stop you can get to the shops as well as to events at the Town and Country Convention Center. Take the trolley to the next Charger Blood Drive.

Next on the line is Hazard Center. The station is across the street, south of the center. Let's hope that the Trolley House Restaurant at the center will now finally reopen.

Moving on down the line is Mission Valley Center. Here the station is across Camino de La Reina from the principle part of the shopping center.

Rio Vista is the next station. There isn't much here now, but townhouses, apartments, offices and retail businesses are planned. Although the need for another development on the Mission Valley flood plain is quite questionable, this development is supposed to be geared toward the use of mass transit.

After Rio Vista, you arrive at the "Q" very close to Gate K. Just think how much nicer it will be to jump onto the trolley after a stadium event rather than sit in that line of cars with your engine idling.

There is a station east of the "Q", the Mission San Diego station, which was not open yet. Plans are to continue the line out to San Diego State University and Grossmont Center.

Consider using the trolley next time you are heading out to the "Q" or when you are just going shopping. It's up and running, so get out of your cars and use it.

Laura Meldrum can be reached via email to