The New York City subway moves an average of 5.7 million people per week and 1.763 billion annually. Compare that to San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) trolley, which generates almost 41 million annual passenger trips -- that's more than 123,000 people every day of the week.
San Diego’s light rail system doesn’t hold a candle to New York’s subway, that much is clear. But on the other hand, San Diego outperforms 33 other cities’ light rail systems, ranking fourth in the nation behind only Boston, LA, and San Francisco (MUNI Metro, not the BART) in ridership.
In other words, San Diego's light rail system isn't the best in the world, but our four lines, 53 stations, and 54.3 miles of track certainly isn't the worst either. For frame of reference, New York’s subway has 469 stations with 660.75 miles of track, and people take it everywhere.
San Diegans, unlike New Yorkers, hardly take the trolley everywhere. In fact, the data shows that we use it to go to a few very specific places: 41% of trips are work-related, occurring between 6am and 6pm. Of all the 123,300 trips per day, only a combined 26% are for leisure, shopping, or dining. With all that's going on in San Diego, you can't help but wonder why people don’t take the trolley other than commuting to work.
Ask any local why and they’re bound to give you a theory based on personal experience. For the most part, all of their voices are united in painting a picture of where the MTS falls short -- hence why they wouldn’t use it for recreation.