Image of two San Diego Streetcars

Celebrating 40 Years of Light Rail in San Diego 

Over the past 40 years of our partnership, San Diego has continued to be a leading example for cities across the United States on how to utilize transit – and in particular light rail systems – in order to connect people to employment opportunities and provide their community with an equitable network that will benefit future generations. Together, we’ve collaborated to ensure their vehicles meet the needs of their passengers.
Robin Stimson

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of light rail with one of our oldest and most trusted North American partners, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. Over the past four decades, both the city and our company have grown and transformed, with many of the same ideals: sustainability, reliability and putting the customer first. This weekend, I was proud to be able to stand alongside them as they celebrated this important milestone, so let’s take a quick look back.  


In the late 1970s, San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board set out on a path that no other American city had taken before it. Seeking to create a transportation network that would allow for the city to continue to grow in a sustainable manner and connect different communities, the board developed a plan for a light rail system that would provide both high speed travel and a flexible system.  

The city looked to its European counterparts for proven light rail vehicles – and the partnership with Siemens was born. The first U2 vehicles were produced in Dusseldorf and shipped to California.  


However, much like the city of San Diego, our business in the United States also continued to grow as other cities looked to incorporate LRV networks in their transportation planning. By the early 80’s, we began producing the vehicles in Sacramento, CA and by the early 1990’s opened our French Road rail manufacturing hub which continues to grow today!  


Sharon Cooney, MTS chief executive officer, said, "Siemens has been a partner with MTS since 1980. Every light-rail car we have ever purchased – 244 of them – have been from Siemens.”  


With each of the orders over the past four decades, we’ve co-collaborated on the vehicles to ensure they are exactly what the SDMTS customers have grown to expect from their beloved “Red Trolleys.” The latest S700 vehicles feature wide aisleways, which make the vehicle much easier to traverse into and around for passengers, bicycles and wheelchairs. There are also energy efficiency features like LED lighting, which not only utilize less energy, but also last longer. 


Although the team has changed over time and the vehicles have continued to evolve, the partnership remains strong. Throughout the fall, we’ll continue to celebrate as San Diego opens their mid-coast expansion, which advances their efforts to connect communities to new opportunities through sustainable public transit. San Diego has the lead the way in creating blueprints for how underserved communities, university students and those further from the city center can be connected by light rail. And as the United States continue to address climate change and equity, the city will continue to be spotlighted as an example for others – and on behalf of the 4,000 Siemens Mobility employees – I can say, we’re proud to be their partner!  


Written By:

Robin Stimson, VP Business Development

Siemens Mobility Inc.