Several different operators and modes make up the public transit network in the San Diego metropolitan area. The primary operator is the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). MTS is one of the longest continuously operating transportation providers in the United States, having been in operation (though with several name changes over time) since July 3, 1886. San Diego’s first electric streetcar entered service in 1887, and in 1891, all the streetcars in the city were being operated by the privately held San Diego Electric Railway Company. Starting in the 1920s, streetcar lines began to be replaced by buses, and the last streetcar ended operation in 1949. San Diego was the first major city in California to see an end to its streetcar network.
The transit network remained a private entity until 1967, at which time the San Diego Transit System company (the San Diego Electric Railway Company adopted this new name in 1948) was bought by the city of San Diego. The San Diego Trolley, the first “second generation” light rail in the United States, opened in 1981. The current MTS moniker was adopted in 1986. MTS primarily operates in central and southern San Diego County.
The North County Transit District (NCTD) is responsible for transit services in northern San Diego County. NCTD operates BREEZE bus service, COASTER commuter rail service, and SPRINTER light rail service. BREEZE bus service was established after NCTD purchased the municipally run bus systems in Escondido and Oceanside. As of 2015, BREEZE has about 30 routes and a fleet of about 150 buses. COASTER service between San Diego and Oceanside began in 1994, and SPRINTER service, using light rail DMU vehicles, began in 2008.
The San Diego Trolley is the oldest "second generation" light rail system in the United States, having opened on July 26, 1981. Since then, the system has grown to include 3 regular service lines, 1 heritage streetcar line, 53 stations, and 53 miles of track. In early 2015, the fleet became entirely low-floor. Currently, there are about 120 vehicles, all manufactured by Siemens, in the trolley fleet, in addition to 2 restored PCC streetcars that are used for the "Silver Line" heritage service.
MTS operates about 90 bus routes in the city of San DIego and southern San Diego County. This includes two BRT services known as MTS Rapid and SuperLoop. MTS Rapid consists of three routes connecting downtown San Diego to Escondido, SDSU, and Rancho Bernardo. SuperLoop operates in the University City area of the city near the UCSD campus. The fleet contains nearly 400 buses, including buses powered by compressed natural gas.
COASTER commuter rail operates on a single, 41 mile long route between San Diego's Santa Fe Depot and Oceanside. The service is managed by and the tracks are owned by the North County Transit District, but the actual operation of the line is contracted out. Service began on February 27, 1995. As of 2015, about 5,000 people use the service each weekday.