SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – MTS is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the San Diego Trolley this year and it’s also a major milestone for one of their longest-running employees. ABC 10News dug into the history of one of the city’s most iconic staples in a story that’s Positively San Diego.
In 1981, the first San Diego trolley rolled won the tracks between downtown and the US-Mexico border. MTS Chief Operating Officer Wayne Terry has been along for the ride ever since.
AT just 22 years old he was the youngest train dispatcher in the history of the Santa Fe Railroad. Just a few years later he was one of the first controllers hired at MTS. His job was basically running air traffic control for the trolley line.
“Back in those days you learned railroading from the guys that were doing it back in WWII,” said Terry. “I think that machine right now is at the Railroad Museum in Balboa Park if I’m not mistaken.”
When the trolley started it only stretched over 16 miles of track known as the Blue Line. By the 80’s the first leg of the East Line was added, and more people were hopping onboard. The East Line from 12th and Imperial to Euclid was later renamed the Orange Line.
In 1989 the trolley reached more than 48,000 riders per day. Decade after decade Terry has watched a small operation turn into a multi-city transit powerhouse.
“There were a lot of skeptics in the early days. There was not a lot of money thrown at it,” said Terry. “The blue line is arguably still the most productive light rail system in the country.”
By 1998 the trolley hit record ridership when San Diego hosted both the World Series and the Super Bowl.
“People rely on our system,” said Terry. “It’s a lifeline service to many of our riders.”
That lifeline keeps moving forward and adapting to the times. MTS is routinely adding lines, stations, and now runs an all-electric system powered by renewable energy.
Terry celebrated his 40th anniversary with MTS this year and is now getting ready to retire. When he leaves, he knows the operation he’s built from inception will stay right on track.
“The thing I’m most proud of is the personnel that we have here at San Diego Trolley,” said Terry. “We’re Serving our passengers, serving communities, and something San Diego can be very proud of.”
Construction is underway to add nine new trolley stations between downtown and University City. That project is set to be completed this fall.