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Old Town Trolley was voted the Best Sightseeing Tour by San Diego Magazine’s Readers Choice Travel Awards! If you’re planning a visit to San Diego, climb aboard and discover why. Because whether you want to see all the history or attractions, the sights that make the city famous or anything else in between, the Old Town Trolley Tour will transport you there! With more than 100 points of interest and the ability to hop on and off as often and for as long as you wish, you’ll see all the best the city has to offer and learn many fascinating facts along the way. Put the Trolley Tour on your San Diego must-do list and you won’t miss a single must-see in the city!
By Mona DeLeon
Village News Online Editor
December 20, 2011
There are school bells, church bells, and even sleigh bells, but nothing telegraphs the coming of Christmas in San Diego quite like the sound of Old Town Trolley bells. On Wednesday, December 14, for the children at St. Vincent de Paul Village, the trolley bells marked the beginning of a magical ride to Old Town San Diego, where they began an afternoon of Christmas festivities.
Trolley driver Robert “Hatch” Hatcher said that this was his favorite tour of the year. “Just seeing the smiles on the children’s faces is more meaningful than any gift you could receive.” This is the eighth time the event has been held at Old Town Market.
After arriving at Old Town, the children were greeted by friendly staff serving a pizza dinner. Following the meal, John Savage, the Manager of Old Town Market, hoisted not one but two seasonal piñatas in the air—a large snowman and a reindeer. With screams of excitement, the children took turns batting at the piñatas with vigorous swings that would make some major league baseball players jealous. Decidedly the bravest man of the hour, John skillfully monitored the festive batting, passing the ornate wooden stick from one child to the next.
When asked what their favorite part of Christmas was, each child’s answer echoed that of little Amna. “The presents!” she cried. The highlight of the event was a very special visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Mr. and Mrs. Claus called out each child by name and gave him or her a specially selected wrapped gift. The children let out squeals of delight as their friends opened presents of board games, toys and craft kits. As one child said, “Santa knows what you want, he’s psychic!”
Jennifer Ryan, Children’s Services Program Manager, said that this was her “favorite event of the year because it provided a very personal experience for each of the children.” The magical trolley ride continued with a driving tour of the glittering Christmas lights at the Hotel del Coronado. When the evening’s ride concluded back at the Village, the children were as happy as they were tired—always the sign of a successful event.
Perhaps the best example of the Christmas spirit this evening came during a poignant moment after Santa had distributed all the gifts. Toys opened and wrapping paper strewn about the floor, one young boy walked over to a friend and handed him one of his presents. When asked for the reason behind his act of generosity, he replied simply, “Because he’s been so nice to me.”
Drive Less and Drive Clean
Sightseeing Via Clean Transportation
For this small business, clean transportation is the key to success. Over the last 20 years, Old Town Trolley Tours has provided sightseeing tours using 25 trolleys and 5 SEAL “boats on wheels” vehicles. They give tours to approximately 500 to 1,000 people each day.
Old Town Trolley’s CEO, Chris Belland, instituted company wide “green” policies, including changing trolleys to run on propane and our SEAL “boats on wheels” to run on biodiesel. Both changes helped create cleaner transportation methods. As Belland puts it, “it is small things like this that add up to environmental awareness for our company and people who visit our locations.”
In addition to making cleaner transportation decisions, Old Town Trolley Tours implemented energy efficiency measures. They utilized their local utility’s energy and lighting audit services to measure usage. After these audits they changed outdated lighting in their facility to use less energy and save money. They utilized on-bill financing and rebates to pay for the lighting changes.
These proactive changes annually save over 300 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere and $1,440 in annual lighting costs.
What Actions Did Old Town Trolley Tours Take to Drive Clean?
Old Town Trolley Tours moved away from traditional gasoline fuel for their fleet. Their trolleys now use propane for fuel and their “boats on wheels” run on biodiesel. Both alternative fuels are more environmentally-friendly and reduce the demand for foreign oil imports. Use of these fuels equates to a reduction of more than 300 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
What Actions Did Old Town Trolley Tours Take to Save Energy?
Old Town Trolley contacted their utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), to conduct an energy and lighting audit. This audit led to a complete lighting retrofit of their facility. In the office they replaced 8-foot T-12 lights with T-8 lights. For their high bay lighting, they replaced 400-watt metal halide lights with T-5 lights. These changes have saved about 9,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. They also put lights on timers and use as much natural light as possible, helping to reduce energy use by 33%.
How Did Old Town Trolley Tours Pay For Their Lighting Retrofits?
Two San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) programs helped Old Town Trolley achieve their facility improvement goals. The Small Business Super Saver program provided them with a $3,200 rebate for their lighting retrofit project, paying for about a third of the project’s cost. An On-Bill Financing program allowed Old Town Trolley to secure interest-free financing through SDG&E to pay for the energy-efficient improvements. Old Town Trolley is currently repaying the loan through their monthly utility bill. By installing the new equipment, SDG&E estimated monthly energy savings at $120 per month and leveraged it against the $118 monthly loan payment.
Old Town Trolley Tours turned their gasoline-dependant small business into a more environmentally-friendly, energy efficient sightseeing adventure by making both small and large changes to their traditional business practices.
In recognition of the significant improvements we’ve made to our energy efficiency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency honored Old Town Trolley Tours with an ENERGY STAR® Small Business Award. When you hear the name “ENERGY STAR,” you may think of the label that is used to distinguish appliances and other products that are energy efficient. But ENERGY STAR is actually a program backed by the EPA that helps businesses and individuals become more energy efficient in all areas, not just products. This year’s ENERGY STAR Small Business Awards were open to any small business that increased the energy efficiency of its facility through energy management improvements during the last two years. Only six other small businesses across the country received the same honor.
“EPA is pleased to recognize Old Town Trolley Tours for its leadership in addressing global warming through greater energy efficiency,” said Kathleen Hogan, director of EPA’s Climate Protection Partnership Division. “As a small business, they are showing their community that everyone can play a role in protecting the health of our planet.”
Norm Niles, San Diego maintenance manager, says that the company wanted to expand its environmental commitment and become more energy efficient in other areas of the operation. Not knowing where to start, Web research led Niles to the ENERGY STAR Small Business Web site where he discovered “Putting Energy into Profits: ENERGY STAR Guide for Small Business”. “The guide recommends going through your local utility for help and that lighting projects are a good beginning because they are relatively easy and have a major effect on overall energy costs,” says Niles. He had heard a radio advertisement for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) small business programs, so Old Town Trolley Tours was off and running.
San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) developed an energy efficiency plan for Old Town Trolley, which Niles credits with a key role in the success of their program. He says there were three main elements that made the plan ideal. “SDG&E came to our business and did an energy audit. They listened to our concerns and needs and provided solid recommendations. Next, their Small Business Super Saver program provided us with a $3,200 rebate on our lighting retrofit project which covered about one-third of the cost.”
Niles says the third element was what really made the project attractive. SDG&E was able to offer on-bill financing. This program provided interest-free financing from the utility to cover the cost of the efficiency improvements which was then paid back through the monthly utility bill. SDG&E estimated the savings of installing the new equipment and leveraged that against the loan payment. This meant there was no net effect on the monthly utility bill.
“It meant we were getting the energy savings, had zero up-front costs and interest free financing for a true win-win-win situation,” Niles says. Old Town Trolley also used Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager to measure and track the success of their energy management plan.
“It’s always good to know we have the technical support from ENERGY STAR,” Niles adds, “Not only for products and services, but for helpful tips, including using the natural ventilation and natural lighting in our large buildings and other ideas.”
Old Town Trolley’s success has spawned other equally successful efforts. The Boston location of Old Town Trolley is currently working with their local utility to implement a similar plan. In San Diego, free ENERGY STAR materials were used during employee meetings to discuss what the business had done, but also to educate employees about how easily similar steps can be taken at home.
Old Town Trolley in San Diego became the “energy saving poster business” for the City of San Diego and SDG&E. The company partnered with San Diego’s Small Business Green Financing Program, Clean TECH San Diego and SDG&E to stage an event at Old Town’s location explaining how rebates and on-bill financing made the effort affordable. Old Town Trolley became a model case study for other small businesses. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders was joined by other business and community leaders and promoted Old Town Trolley as a small business success story and leading example of green business practices. The event was covered by all major news media in San Diego and led to a dramatic spike in calls to SDG&E.
In addition to reduced energy usage and lowering bills, Niles says the lighting quality is much better. “The light is brighter and there aren’t any pockets of shadow. It’s easier on the eyes. It’s also much easier to change 4-foot lights than the original 8-foot fixtures,” Niles jokes.