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PARK & RECREATION DEPARTMNT
NEW BALBOA PARK TRAM SERVICE DEBUTS
DECEMBER 9, 2013
A fleet of new high-capacity passenger trams will begin service in Balboa Park on Monday, December 9, 2013. The trams will carry passengers from the large parking lots near Inspiration Point (east of Park Boulevard at Presidents Way) on a loop route leading to the convenient dropoff station in the Plaza de Panama immediately adjacent to the Mingei International Museum and near the San Diego Museum of Art. The new tram service will be free to all riders. The trams were acquired by the City in a lease-purchase agreement and can carry as many as 72 passengers at one time. The City will be operating as many as three trams during peak hours in the park and expects to meet passengers at tram stops every 10 to 12 minutes. Trams will run from 9 am to 6 pm with the last departure from Inspiration Point at 5:45 pm. Each of the three tram systems were built by Specialty Vehicles Incorporated (SVI) of Henderson, Nevada. They include a power unit with seating capacity for 16 people that can tow two additional trailer units that each seat 28 people. The power units also include a ramp and forward bench seat that can be quickly converted to serve visitors using wheel chairs. Both the power and trailer units are built with low decks making it easy for passengers to enter and exit the trams and improving turn-around times at tram stops. The new fleet includes one power unit and two trailers that are fully enclosed and intended for use during the worst inclement weather. All of the other tram units have plastic weather drapes that will be lowered on days with rain or high winds. The trams also include video screens that will provide passengers with information about the trams and park attractions. The City received four proposals to operate the new trams and selected Ace Parking of San Diego to provide drivers and conductors on the trams. Ace currently operates other shuttle services in San Diego and is thoroughly familiar with traffic and parking patterns in Balboa Park. Total costs for the new service include annual lease payments of $150,000 to SVI. Those payments will end in 2020 when the City will take outright possession of all tram units. Annual operating costs are forecast at $350,000 and will be funded from the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) accounts. Currently, the City uses those TOT funds to pay for the existing tram service in the Park. The “red trolleys” now serving the park will make their last run on January 1, 2014.
With their bright green color and streamlined shape, the new trams are reminiscent of the trailer buses that served Balboa Park during the 1935 California-Pacific International Exposition. The image below is taken from a brochure that showed routes for that service.