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WatchSonoma Watch

County voters to consider $10 fee for roads, buses

By BOB NORBERG

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County voters will be asked in November to increase vehicle registration fees by $10 to repair potholes and fund bus transit and school safety projects.

The measure, which would raise $5 million a year, received final approval Monday by the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

It is meant to make up for the deep cuts the state has made in funding transit, and also to provide financing for Safe Route to Schools programs.

“We need to double the amount of funding for bus service,” said Steve Birdlebaugh, a member of Friends of SMART. “This won’t do it all, but it is a step in the right direction.”

Under the proposal, 60 percent of the money from the fee would go to bus systems operated by Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, Petaluma and Healdsburg, as well for incentives such as employer or school-sponsored transit and to enhance transit for seniors.

“Seniors are the most vulnerable and fastest growing demographic in the county,” said Ginny Doyle, a Sonoma County human services worker.

Twelve percent would be for Safe Routes to Schools, to improve safety and encourage students to walk or ride bicycles to school, and 5 percent for administration.

As a carrot to voters, 23 percent of the fee would be for street repair that is broadly defined to include potholes, paving, streetlights, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and bus turnouts.

A poll conducted in May by the Service Employees International Union indicated that 55 percent of likely Sonoma County voters would approve the measure if it included fixing potholes and maintaining streets.

A simple majority is needed for passage.

The authority, which has been discussing the measure since February, initially balked at providing funding for street repairs and had allocated 68 percent for bus transit.

“I look at this as a victory for getting the measure passed,” said Petaluma Councilman David Glass, who had long advocated pothole repair. “Sixty percent of something is better than 68 percent of nothing.”

The measure passed on a 7-2 vote, with Cloverdale Mayor Carol Russell and Sonoma Councilwoman Laurie Gallian opposing it. Sonoma County supervisors Shirlee Zane and Paul Kelley and Healdsburg Councilman Mike McGuire were absent.





11 Responses to “County voters to consider $10 fee for roads, buses”

  1. John says:

    Only 23% go to road repair etc. 60% go the bus and transit projects. 12% to whatever they call “safe route” and 5% to administer them. Quit the whining about having to pay for bike lane that’s only less than 1/4 of it.

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  2. MGB says:

    I wish I could be sure the “road repair” funds would repair beat up roads in poorer neighborhoods. West Steele took forever to get fixed while my former neighborhood Rincon Valley always had nice roads.

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  3. Jay says:

    Sonoma County would have to be insane to support this. There is literally no responsible response to being “pro” this tax hike.

    Of course, having lived here my entire adult life, I’m sure it’ll pass considering how we love to see taxes raised here.

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  4. Noah says:

    @John Angius:
    1) “Let’s first get rid of inefficient public employees who drain our resources and replace them with local companies who would add to state coffers through their payroll taxes.”
    —I’m one of your “inefficient public employess” (I drive for Sonoma County Transit). Except, I’m not a public employee. I work for a private corporation, which the board of supervisors contracted to run the service so we would not be civil servants and get a pension. It saves the county money, but I don’t get retirement. Inefficient? I work my butt off 8-10 hrs/day, making sure people get safely to work, school, the doctor, a job interview,wherever. We are under strict rules and are monitored very closely, every day. Also, we care about the people we transport.

    2) “I live in Healdsburg and only see empty bussess driving between here and Cloverdale.”
    —Yes, they are mostly empty by the time they get above Healdsburg. But do you want to tell the nurse who works at Memorial Hospital’s cardiac unit and rides every day that she can no longer get to work? She takes really good care of her patients, and is needed at her job. God forbid you might ever need her too. Or the woman who works in RP and commutes to Cloverdale? Or the kids who live in Cloverdale but go to school in Santa Rosa, Windsor and Healdsburg? Do you want to tell their parents that they now need to take their kids to and from school, despite the parents’ work schedules?

    3) “Furthermore, when I take a bus to Santa Rosa, I see only empty seats during the forty five minutes to one hour it takes to travel the 15 miles to get south. When I drive, it takes 15 minutes, TOPS.”
    —Most of our route 60 buses (between Santa Rosa and Cloverdale, or just to Healdsburg) are jam-packed. You may be riding at a particular time when they are not, but this is a very busy route. Are you suggesting we should abandon buses and get more cars on the road? That’s prescient thinking.

    4) “Has there been a study as to whether we can save money by using smaller county vehicles…?”
    —Yes, there are constant studies, and inefficiencies have been pulled out of the system to the point of taking away needed service. Our budget has been pounded into smithereens, and the future only looks like less and less service will be available. Unfortunately, you cannot run smaller vehicles when a large crowd might well appear at any time. We get school kids going on field trips, and often our passenger loads vary from day to day and it is impossible to predict that on a micro-scale.

    5) “…maybe pay a reasonable rate to drivers?”
    —I make only enough to survive. I have Kaiser health insurance, a tiny 401k, and enough money to pay my rent. I do not own a home, and drive a 1994 car. I do all my shopping locally, and on rare occasions I go to local restaurants, and not fancy ones either. I pay local taxes and participate in my community. When I leave this job, I will not be anywhere near “set.” I’m a hard-working blue collar guy. What do you consider a “reasonable rate?” Any lower and I will be in line for one of those lovely burger-flipping jobs, or worse, on welfare and not contributing to the local economy.

    My experience is that people who say things like you have are responding to emotions that are strongly felt, and I respect your feelings, but I think you mis-represent the facts and make things worse for working people. Dragging me down is not going to raise you up, and I’d rather see you promoting job and service growth by getting more customers for the economy (good paying jobs) than trying to take what’s left out of the hide of people with not much hide left to give.

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  5. Another Tax? says:

    Yet another tax? Seriously? Forget it.

    Designated use taxes make the point . . . an end-run is necessary because government officials can seldom be trusted to use tax dollars wisely i.e. spending within there means based on well thought out spending priorities.

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  6. Lyn says:

    While it seems intuitive that running smaller vans on some bus routes would save a lot of money, it might not be so.

    Labor costs make up a large part of the cost of public transportation. Will union drivers accept less money for driving smaller vehicles?

    Federal tax dollars pay a significant portion of bus system capital costs, so there’s little incentive for transportation districts to economize here. The money saved would likely be limited to fuel and maintenance costs.

    Sadly, the perverse incentives of government funding don’t encourage economic management.

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  7. Zuma says:

    We pay taxes on gasoline to pay for roads. We pay property taxes and sales taxes to pay for buses.
    Cyclists pay no taxes and yet demand bike paths to be paid for by other peoples money, but not theirs!

    Tax and spend simply doesnt work anymore.
    Cut expenses and use the money we have paid and are paying. We are overtaxed and under served as it is!

    Heck, large vans would be more than adequate on many routes, just as smaller official cars for all all all depts will save a few trinkets!

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  8. john angius says:

    I live in Healdsburg and only see empty bussess driving between here and Cloverdale.

    Furthermore, when I take a bus to Santa Rosa, I see only empty seats during the forty five minutes to one hour it takes to travel the 15 miles to get south. When I drive, it takes 15 minutes, TOPS.

    Has there been a study as to whether we can save money by using smaller county vehicles, maybe pay a reasonable rate to drivers?

    I’ve got to thing we can do mass transit cheaper and more efficiently. Let’s first get rid of inefficient public employees who drain our resources and replace them with local companies who would add to state coffers through their payroll taxes.

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  9. Scott Baley says:

    Contrary to the naysayers bellow, I think this is a great opportunity. Since this is a new revenue source just made available to counties this year by the state, we finally have a chance to provide a stream of transportation funding the state cannot steal from us.

    Good job SCTA!

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  10. Lyn says:

    Not only is the timing bad, the money is divvied up into slices too small to do much good. It’s nickle-and-dime government in action: everyone gets a little something, but never enough to fix a problem.

    And then there’s the ambiguity, if not outright deception. The county will sell this in part as a road repair measure, something obviously needed. Yet, “road repair” money will get spent on bike lanes, street lights, and bus turnouts.

    And that’s a turn off.

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  11. ()() says:

    The only problem with this is that there already is a state proposition to tack $18 per year on to vehicle license fees to fund the state park system. The SCTA (obviously not the Southern California Timing Association) didn’t think this through or plan it very well.

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