Caltrain, Burlingame Honda dealer reach détente 

An accord between Mike Harvey Honda and Caltrain will keep one of the city’s largest sales tax generators from losing business during the renovation of the Burlingame Avenue train station.

The dealership will be allowed to keep "for sale" vehicles and vehicles waiting to see a mechanic on property the dealership leases from Caltrain on the condition they are moved when construction in the area is imminent, according to the agreement approved unanimously Thursday by the Caltrain board.

"He’ll be given 48 hours notice," said Brian Fitzpatrick, real estate manager for Caltrain.

The property that Mike Harvey leases is directly in front of where construction will take place beginning in May or June. The agreement was possible because Caltrain’s contractor will only need access to the area Mike Harvey uses for a few short periods of time, Fitzpatrick said.

When the work is done, the dealership will be able to return its vehicles to the lot, officials said.

"What happened was a beautiful illustration of democracy," said Burlingame Mayor Terry Nagel, who admitted to being skeptical early on regarding the agreement that was hammered out by getting business owners, residents and Caltrain all in the same room.

Calls to Mike Harvey for comment weren’t returned.

Harvey and other businesses raised concerns more than a year ago about the train station project, arguing that a lack of parking and traffic congestion could hurt business.

The $13 million train station overhaul will relocate the Burlingame station slightly to the south between Howard Avenue and North Lane, eliminate the passenger loading platform in the middle of the tracks and improve both pedestrian safety and efficiency, said Al Fung, project manager for Caltrain.

"This will probably be the best looking station we have," Fung said.

The renovations will allow two trains to pass through the station at a time, eliminating the so-called "hold out" rule requiring trains to go through stations with a single central platform — which require passengers to cross tracks to board — one at a time. Aside from added safety, this will help Caltrain improve scheduling, Fung said.

Mike Harvey, which leases about 8,000 square feet of space for $776 a month, won’t see a rent increase until after construction is completed in about a year, Fung said.

At that time the dealership will enter into a new lease agreement for 12,000 square feet. Mike Harvey’s rent will increase in increments over three years to $2,100, according to Fung.

Lost service to be revisited Caltrain board members called Thursday for a study of whether service should be restored to stations that lost it with the advent of the Baby Bullet express trains, including the Broadway station in Burlingame.

Ongoing campaigning by officials from Burlingame, Atherton and other affected cities, in a group calling itself the Coalition to Expand Transit Service, prompted several San Mateo County Caltrain board members on Thursday to request an independent study.

The call was rejected by Caltrain staff members, who said the agency’s schedule is already operating at capacity, but could come back to the board for discussion in coming weeks.

Caltrain’s Baby Bullet express service, launched in 2004, greatly increased ridership but came at the cost of reduced service to stations in cities including San Bruno and Belmont. Weekday service was eliminated altogether at the Broadway and Atherton stations, riling locals.

Adding service to Broadway, just a mile from the Burlingame Avenue station, and Atherton, less than a mile from Menlo Park, would cause delays in the rapid service that has been key to attracting riders, Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said.

The agency must be doing something right, since it has garnered national attention as a role model, said Caltrain CEO Mike Scanlon, who expressed reluctance to rework the schedule.

"What we have seen is a very successful reinvention of the Caltrain system, but I wonder if there are other opportunities to stretch it to provide more and better service," county Supervisor and Caltrain board member Jerry Hill said Thursday.

Board members Jim Hartnett, Sue Lempert and Arthur Lloyd agreed that hard numbers would help clarify whether restoring weekday service to some stations would draw sufficient customers to justify the expense.

Burlingame Mayor Terry Nagel said Thursday that the coalition wants Caltrain to consider changing its schedule to include more "limited" trains, which skip some stations.

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