The Burlingame City Council has agreed to allocate $25,000 to the Burlingame Trolley, which shuttles hotel patrons to Broadway and Burlingame Avenue and carries residents around town, after two years of providing no funding to the service.
Members of the Bayfront hotels requested revenue from the City to offset rising fuel costs, as well as an expansion of shuttle operations later into the night. This guarantees more patrons who take the trolley into Burlingame for dinner a ride back to their hotels after. The shuttle currently runs Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 8:18 p.m.
Public Works Director Syed Murtuza recommended one of two funding options.
“[There’s an option of] $10,000 to basically pay for the rising fuel cost and some expenses associates with the brochures printing and also a $25,000 option where the hotels could actually expand the trolley,” he said.
Council members agreed that allocating $25,000 towards expanding service made the most sense, especially since the money comes from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) fund. The transient occupancy tax (TOT) charged at hotels funnels directly into the CIP fund, so council members agreed upon the fairness of using some of that money to help the hotels.
“I would have the tendency to go towards the $25,000 because the TOT comes from our hotels and we get a lot of revenue from the hotels,” said Councilwoman Ann Keighran. “I’ve heard first hand from many of the restaurants on Broadway…they have received increased business from the hotels because the shuttles are being pushed.”
Councilman Jerry Deal agreed, saying that the recent 2 percent increase in TOT generates about $2 million a year, so directing $25,000 of that towards the trolley service, which hotels use as a big selling point, is a small price to pay.
Council members did, however, express uncertainty over which CIP projects to cut. Murtuza said of the $40,000 allocated towards signage, about $10,000 would be available for the trolley as city staff explored new, less expensive means of providing signs.
He also said he spoke with Jim Skeels, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, about cutting funding for the bocce court improvement at Washington Park and basketball court improvements.
However, councilman Michael Brownrigg said he hoped city staff would be able to find the $25,000 without taking all of it from parks.
City staff will come back to council in the future with their proposed funding plan.
The trolley was formerly provided $80,000 annually by the City until 2009, when budget constraints led to a cut in shuttle funding. Since then, the Bayfront hotels have funded the trolley in full with assistance from the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Anne LeClair.
In the last fiscal year, the trolley averaged 85 boardings per day. It services six hotels and two stops in the downtown Burlingame areas.