As 2023 comes to an end (already?!), we wanted to take some time to look back on some major highlights from this year and look ahead to an exciting 2024.
Watch our recap video or read on below!
Highest Ridership Since 2020
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing our agency and riders this year was a weeks-long disruption to service during the early part of the summer. Both riders and staff had to be flexible day-by-day to meet the demands of limited service. However, thanks to our riders who stuck through the stoppages and/or returned when service returned, 2023 resulted in the highest ridership for MTS since the start of the pandemic in March 2020! We saw an increase in youth ridership and a whole lot of special events over at Snapdragon Stadium, which premiered its first of many concerts back in May. Soccer games, football games, concerts and record attendance at Petco Park (go Padres!) all contributed to rising ridership on our system this year. However, it is undoubtedly our core daily riders who helped pave the way. To close out 2023, MTS is averaging approximately 226,345 weekday riders, a 10% increase from 2022.
We take safety pretty seriously at MTS. Our bus division’s motto is “Safety - Every Trip, Every Day,” and their record shows just how hard operators work to make that true. This year we recognized 10 bus operators with the “Million Mile Award,” which is a special award given to operators that have driven over 25,000 hours without a preventable accident. Wow! We also had 277 MTS bus operators who drove the entire year without a preventable accident. Way to go, Bus team!
Let’s not leave the Rail team out, because there were also some major awards handed out to rail operators, too. This year we recognized 120 Trolley operators who’ve had accident-free service: the awards ranged from 2 to 34 years with no preventable accidents. In that group were three train operators who were recognized for 30, 32 and 34 years of accident-free service – incredible! Three cheers for our Rail team!
More Code Compliance Officers Joining the Team
Beyond safety behind the wheel of a bus or the cab of a Trolley, we know that safety while riding is also top-of-mind for our riders. In 2023, our Board of Directors approved the addition of 34 new Code Compliance Inspectors (CCI) to our team. The additional staff will help patrol the system at our stations and on our vehicles, helping to bring more security presence throughout the system. This increase will boost the total number of CCIs patrolling the system from 56 to 90 – a 60% increase! The first class of CCIs started training in December, and we’ll complete staffing by next fall.
This year MTS provided service to more than 300 special events! There was record-breaking attendance at Padres games, the first-ever concerts at Snapdragon Stadium, and the annual Comic-Con convention. This summer, MTS logged an additional 250,000 trips alone for San Diego Comic-Con. And we had our highest ridership events at Snapdragon Stadium in September and October – carrying over 8,000 concertgoers on back-to-back weeks to see performances by Coldplay (2) and Pink. We also provided 280,000 trips for another Free Ride Day in October and wrapped up the year with holiday cheer at our first-ever Holly Jolly Trolley event.
Grantville Opening (And More Housing on the Way)
Another big development this year was the grand opening of Union Grantville, a 250-unit housing development at the Grantville Transit Center. The project had been under development since April 2021. While riders have some park & ride spaces available again, ongoing beautification and improvements to the transit center are still underway! Early next year, ShoreLINE, a second development at Grantville featuring 124 units for low-income residents, will open its doors. 2024 will also see our commitment to housing grow with new agreements for additional housing projects at Spring Street and Palm Avenue Trolley already in play, plus a new groundbreaking will be announced in the coming year. This brings the total number of residential units in some stage of development on MTS property to nearly 3,000.
Launch of Rapid 227
This fall, we also launched our first Rapid route to run electric bus service – Rapid 227. The new route provides quick service from the Otay Mesa Transit Center and nearby border crossing to the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley and Imperial Beach, every 15 minutes or better throughout the day. Riders can get from Otay Mesa to the Trolley in just 15 minutes, and from the border to the Imperial Beach Pier in 40. Compared to the service offered along the route before Rapid 227 launched, the new route provides nearly four times the number of weekly trips and over 600 more hours of service. The route has been steadily gaining new riders and currently serves about 3,000 passengers every day, who rely on Rapid 227 to get to work, school, shopping and other activities.
Social Equity Listening Tour Projects
We conducted our Social Equity Listening Tour mid-to-late 2022, but in early 2023 the MTS Board of Directors approved a $3 million spending plan to address some of the biggest priorities our riders found in that effort. The funded projects include:
- More than $1.5 million to install new bus shelters at up to 35 different locations
- $450,000 for upgraded lighting at seven stations on the Orange Line Trolley
- $120,000 for a new solar lighting program at 25 bus stops (take the survey here!)
- $250,000 for new, upgraded, smart trash receptacles that will help with cleanliness issues around stops and stations
- And $200,000 for a lighting mural project at the Beyer Blvd. Transit Center along the Blue Line Trolley.
More Transit Funding Coming Our Way
We closed out 2023 on perhaps the biggest note of all: $284 million for expanding and improving transit. In December, the MTS Board approved a proposed spending plan to go to the state for approval on new grant funding that was made available to transit agencies throughout California. The money from this program will help expand bus and Trolley service, advance our bus fleet electrification and more. Highlights include:
- $60 million for 63 new buses including battery-electric, compressed natural gas, and propane-powered buses
- $36 million to build the new Clean Transit Advancement Campus, our new all-electric bus division
- Frequency increase on all Trolley lines to 15 minutes all day, every day and 7.5-minute weekday service on the Blue Line between the border and UTC
- Overnight “Blue Line” bus service from downtown to San Ysidro
- Bus Stop Accessibility Improvements to bring bus stops into full ADA compliance
- Better lighting at stops and stations
Happy Holidays, See You in 2024!
We all have a lot to celebrate with the closing of 2023 and we are giving our riders one extra gift this holiday season with free rides on New Year’s Eve thanks to our sponsor, Big Outdoor. All rides on MTS will be free after 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and we will have extra late-night service on all three Trolley lines. If you are heading out to welcome the new year, please be safe and let MTS do the driving for you -- take transit!
We have so much in store for 2024, and hope you’ll be on board for the ride. On behalf of all of us here at MTS, we wish you a wonderful year ahead and thank you for choosing transit.