August 12, 2005

South Bay trolley users speak out against “Unfair” improvements

By Luis Alonso Pérez

This summer, the new Mission Valley East trolley line extension, better known as the green line, was inaugurated. A $506 million dollar project, designed to close the 5.9 mile gap between the existing trolley lines, creating a direct rail link for people traveling east and west along the often congested I-8 corridor.

A very ambitious but necessary project that features four new trolley stations and eleven state-of-the-art cars with a sleek exterior, a redesigned interior and a low floor, with no stairs to climb and a ramp which extends to the curb in just seconds, providing wheelchair users the ability to aboard quickly.

But for the time being, these new low floor trolleys can’t operate on the orange and blue lines because of their station’s platform height, which has outraged south county users like Victor Galvez, who feels it’s unfair to have new trains on the northern lines without using the same trains for the whole system “because we all pay for the trolley system.”

Mr. Galvez rides the trolley from Chula Vista to downtown SD and back, Monday thru Friday. He feels very happy and privileged to be able to ride the trolley into work; however, he thinks that it’s a very big mistake that the new, more modern and functional trains only circulate in the green line, since improvements to the system should be “evenly” distributed throughout the whole system, including north, east and south.

“Why are the newer trains only circulating in the north-east part of the county?” said Victor Galvez. “Why is South Bay, once again, neglected when improvements come along?”

The Mission Valley East trolley line extension project was first envisioned by the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) more than 25 years ago, but as traffic in the east-west I-8 corridor gets tougher everyday, the new line will provide transit alternatives and reduce congestion on local roads and freeways, expecting to generate more than 11,000 new Trolley trips a day.

All of this is a big step in improving traffic flow in San Diego, but south bay users fear that if the trolley lines expand further north, the new stations will be low-floor ready and keep the new cars up running up there, and leave the old “junk cars” for the south bay lines.

“This is not fair –said Mr. Galvez– south bay users have been sponsoring the trolley system for years. Our support gave them the funds they needed to create other lines, including the green line”.

“I believe this is a form of discrimination” added Mr. Galvez. “I bet you none of the (MTS) board members rides the trolley”.

According to Judith Leitner, Interim Director of Marketing and Community Relations for the Metropolitan Transit System, there are currently only 11 of these new vehicles on hand which are deployed on the Green Line “but as revenues come available, the Board has expressed its desire to continue to replace and add to the existing fleet with cars that have these same features (low-floor)”.

South bay users can’t wait for the old cars to be fixed or replaced with the new, more modern and functional trains, since some of the trains in the blue line are the oldest, the most crowded and in some cases their air conditioning system doesn’t work “making the ride during rush tour very unpleasant” according to Mr. Galvez. “I would like to see every train riding on the different trolley lines, old and new” he added.

“All the cars are air conditioned” said Judith Leitner. “Trolley is currently completing rehabilitating the older cars from the inside out”.

But even with rehabilitations on the way, it’s going to be a while before the south bay users see the state-of-the-art low floor trains on the blue line and take full advantage of the improvements their trolley fare helped pay for.

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