Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - vehicle, economics - operating costs, mode - mass transit, mode - paratransit


Transit vehicle operations, Transit operations, Transit, San Diego (California), Ridership, Public transit, Patronage (Transit ridership), Paratransit services, Operating costs, Mass transit, Local transit, Level of service, Door to door service, Dial a ride, Cost of operation, Automobile use, Automobile usage, Automobile travel


This article discusses San Diego's complexly structured transit system and its recent successes. In spite of a low ridership base and an automobile-oriented environment, patronage has increased steadily (34%) over the past five years to 40.4 million trips per year. Miles of service have increased by 21%, and operating costs have remained almost constant allowing an overall farebox recovery rate of 46.5%. The background of the city's transportation is briefly reviewed. Transit in San Diego County is organized under 2 public agencies. The larger of these, the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) is a federation of 20 different bus, light rail, and dial-a-ride operators. The largest operator, San Diego Transit, serves 28 routes with 281 buses. The second largest operator is San Diego Trolley Incorporated. Besides the fixed route operations, dial-a-ride systems provide public door-to-door local services in 4 suburban cities. North County Transit District (NCTD) is responsible for transit in the area north of San Diego. Rural services are operated by the County. Although transit seems to play a major role in this city, in comparison with other cities, fewer people use transit than would be expected. The reasons are attributed to many factors of which 3 stand out: terrain, low service levels; and the influence of the automobile.