A northbound trolley at the Iris Avenue Transit Center in Otay Mesa. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Ridership on the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System‘s buses and trolleys rose 3% in the final six months of 2019, bucking a national trend of declining transit use.

The spike was led by the trolley, which posted year-over-year gains every month but December. Bus ridership was up in four of the six months.

Overall, MTS counted 19.8 million trolley trips and 24.3 million bus trips during the period, which constitutes the first half of the agency’s official fiscal year.

“More and more San Diegans are using transit as an alternative to driving. This has a direct effect on lessening traffic congestion, providing cleaner air and lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” said county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who chairs the MTS board.

San Diego MTS ridership July through December, 2019. Courtesy MTS

Paul Jablonski, chief executive of the agency, noted that last month MTS doubled the frequency of trolleys on the Blue Line in order to maintain the momentum in traffic growth.

“We will continue to do those types of things operationally to keep the momentum,” he said.

The American Public Transit Association reported nationwide declines in bus and trolley use in the third quarter of 2019, though that was offset by increased use of subways and commuter rail.

MTS is considering a ballot measure in November to increase the sales tax to fund further increases in transit service, possible including new trolley lines to the airport and Kearny Mesa.

The San Diego region is served by 95 bus routes and three trolley lines with 53 miles of track.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.