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Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009 | The really interesting issue (a scandal, actually) is the sparse ridership of the Santee to Old Town trolley. For the huge cost of both building and operating the line, the ridership is incredibly low.

Its ridership should have been serviced with a few buses for a tiny fraction of the cost. Buses would have been both faster than the Santee trolley and more flexible as to destination.

Indeed, the ridership on every San Diego trolley run is low, but the “TJ trolley” is low compared to the cost, and would have been better handled by buses. SANDAG’s solution? Build a new low-usage trolley from Old Town to UTC and UCSD. $1.1 billion (projected cost, which usually understates the real cost) for an unneeded line that buses can and do handle quite adequately.

The “grand opening” of the UTC trolley (if built) will be a great photo op with lots of giddy first day riders. Then the press disappears — not going back to see how many ride the train day-to-day — and especially beyond commuting hours.

Per rider, our often empty trolleys are even less energy efficient than modern buses.

Think scandal. Think LA subway.

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