I have business travel to San Diego (specifically La Jolla) coming up in a few months, and I'm going to extend the trip a bit to enjoy a vacation with my wife. We often rent a car for a trip like this, but we'd like to use only public transportation on this trip if possible.

I'm trying to figure out which pass we should purchase. We'll be staying for just over a week, and since the MTA offers only daily and monthly passes, it's almost certain that we'll get the best value from a monthly pass. But even for the monthly pass, they offer a Regional, a Premium Regional, and COASTER passes for 1, 2, and 3 zones. What does the Premium Regional pass cover that the Regional pass does not? What do the COASTER passes provide over the Regional passes, and what are the zones referred to?

I guess I should clarify that I would like to maximize convenient access to popular attractions in and around the city. Is there a pass that provides access to most popular destinations? Are there notable areas/destinations that this pass would not cover?

  • The COASTER is the North County service, and info can be found at gonctd.com/services/coaster-commuter-rail - I would think you could get most of what you want from the standard MTS pass and just use the COASTER on occasion if you need it. The MTS Trolley and busses cover the bulk of SD attractions.
    – Midavalo
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 22:13
  • 1
    Make use of Google Maps and their Transit layer - I find it quite good for San Diego
    – Midavalo
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


Given that the Pronto fare system has the "Best value" option, i personally wouldn't care about buying a pass, but just loading money onto the card and using the public transport as i wish (as long as Coaster is not needed, which, since it's a commuter rail, most likely is not for the usual touristy stuff).

Explanation for the system (taken from https://www.sdmts.com/fares-passes/pronto-fare-system):

You may choose to purchase a Month Pass up front, or opt to earn-as-you-go.

If you choose the earn-as-you-go method, you will load money into your account, and then the appropriate one-way fare will be deducted on each trip. You will receive a Day Pass on your third tap each day. Once an adult rider has received 12 Day Passes (the equivalent of $72) during a calendar month, they have earned a Month Pass and the account will not be debited for the remainder of the calendar month.

In the PRONTO fare structure, a reduced fare rider will need fewer than eight (8) Day Passes to earn a Month Pass (equivalent of $23). A reduced fare rider would also earn a Month Pass on their 19th trip during the month (18 x $1.25 = $22.50 plus 50 cents charged on their 19th trip).

There is also an app for the system (called Pronto San Diego), which can replace the physical card, so you can even save the fees for the physical card this way.

The difference between Regional and Premium Regional only seems to be, that Premium Regional is valid on Rapid express routes, as well as the Coaster (only on Day Pass, taken from https://www.sdmts.com/what-fare-do-i-need).

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