Sonoma County transportation officials have agreed to help Santa Rosa pay for the operation of its recently remodeled downtown transit mall.

Beginning in October, Sonoma County Transit, whose buses account for about 28 percent of the traffic at the mall, will begin picking up its share of the costs to staff and maintain the Second Street depot.

"That's good news for us," said Santa Rosa Vice Mayor Erin Carlstrom on Tuesday. "That's some more money flowing in our direction."

It costs Santa Rosa about $278,000 annually to run the mall. The deal calls for the county to contribute about $77,000 a year toward the city's expenses, said Jason Parrish, a CityBus manager.

The change was approved by the Sonoma County Transportation Authority this week.

The mall reopened late last year after a $2.8 million facelift aiming to give it a more open, modern feel.

The county agreed to begin contributing toward the cost of running the mall in recognition of the work the city put into upgrading the facility and the shifting balance of federal transit funding between the two agencies, Parrish said.

In 2004, the city received about 75 percent of a key pot of federal transit funding, with the balance going to the county. But today because of demographic changes it receives about 60 percent, with 40 percent going to the county bus system, Parrish said.

The contribution is welcomed for a city bus system that last year struggled to close a $1 million budget gap by raising fares and cutting routes. The shortfall was created largely by a drop in the state sales tax revenue dedicated to transportation systems.

The city also is trying to get Golden Gate Transit, whose buses make up about 13 percent of the traffic, to pay its share of the operating costs, Parrish said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or On Twitter @citybeater.