Transportation planners revive plan for $10 vehicle registration fee increase

Sonoma County transportation planners on Monday revived a proposed $10 increase in vehicle registration fees which could be used for transit, bike lanes, a school safety program or fixing potholes.

A final decision on whether to put the fee proposal on the November ballot and how the money might be spent will be made in May.

That will allow the members of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority time to get direction from their individual city councils on whether to move forward with the vote.

"It gives us direction, but it doesn't give you direction," Jake Mackenzie, SCTA chairman and a Rohnert Park councilman, told the transportation authority staff. "We will come back in May."

Most of the SCTA members generally supported the idea, particularly if the spending plan was tied to programs that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"If it is fixing potholes, I am not there," said Valerie Brown, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. "If it is Safe Routes to Schools, transit, bike paths ... I'm there."

Supervisor Shirlee Zane said transit is vital for those who have the quietest voices in the debate, such as seniors, the disabled, students, minorities and the poor.

"We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to have better transit," Zane said.

Petaluma Councilman David Glass, however, argued for a funding formula that would allow the individual cities to have the flexibility to use some of the money as they wish, "so the person who is asked to pay this fee could see that there is some value."

"The cost is $8,500 a year to operate a vehicle, so a $10 fee is inconsequential in the operation of a vehicle, but not in asking the voters to pay it," Glass said.

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