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March 10, 2010 > Congestion Management Agency proposes vehicle registration fee

Congestion Management Agency proposes vehicle registration fee

By Simon Wong

The Alameda County Congestion Management Agency (CMA) has responded to SB 83 (Hancock) Traffic Congestion: Motor Vehicle Registration Fees which Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law on October 11, 2009.

The bill enables county-wide transportation planning agencies throughout California to propose a vehicle registration fee (VRF), up to $10 per vehicle, additional to the basic vehicle-registration renewal fee collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles. CMA hopes to place a Measure on the November 2010 election ballot. As this is a fee, and not a tax, a simple majority approval (50 percent plus 1) from Alameda County voters is needed to pass.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors' authorization is not required. The measure will be entered directly onto the ballot.

Funds raised would finance investment and programs benefitting those who pay the fee, be used to match funds for state general obligation bonds and for new and on-going congestion-mitigation and pollution-mitigation projects and programs. Such spending must be consistent with a regional transportation plan.

The additional fee could raise a potential $10M annually in Alameda County. Although no California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis is necessary, SB 83 requires agencies to make the finding that a nexus exists between fee-paying motorists and the benefit derived from projects funded and to adopt an expenditure plan.

The CMA board voted to proceed with a vehicle registration fee in December 2009, established a steering committee and appointed EMC Research to conduct polling from January to March. Another consultant team will undertake the nexus analysis and develop a draft expenditure plan, due in May, and present the final version in June. The ballot measure will be submitted in July.

The steering committee meets on the second Monday of each month at 1 p.m. and consists of Union City's Mayor Mark Green (Chair), City of Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson (Vice Chair), Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, AC Transit Director Greg Harper, City of Berkley Councilor Kriss Worthington, City of Hayward Councilor Olden Henson, City of Newark Councilor Luis Freitas and City of Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena.

Public outreach, which will end in April, continues apace with presentations at city council meetings, forums and community groups within the county. Input will shape the draft expenditure plan.

At this stage possible programs and projects might include rehabilitation of local streets and roads, county-wide carpooling and vanpooling, express bus services in congestion corridors, smart transportation technology programs, expanded regional Freeway Performance Initiative, electric vehicle-plug-ins, use of rail in preference to trucks and transit hub access improvements.

The survey's preliminary results indicate 61 percent of those polled would vote for a VRF of $10 per vehicle without a sunset clause. A fee of $8 saw 62 percent support; a fee of $5 appealed to 66 percent. Mention of a sample 20-year sunset clause actually made 54 percent of respondents either less likely to vote or left their vote unchanged.

There is strong support (77 percent high priority; 52 percent very high) for easier-to-use and more efficient public transportation. Similarly, almost three-quarters of interviewees (74 percent high priority, 50 percent very high) favor easier journeys to school and work using public transportation. Street repairs and maintenance are a high priority for 72 percent and a very high priority for 43 percent.

After being told VRF revenue would remain in Alameda County and not be appropriated by the state, 73 percent are more likely to vote "yes" for a measure and 52 percent are much more likely to support it.

Two-thirds of voters are more likely to support the introduction of a VRF, if road repairs and maintenance improve pedestrians' and bicyclists' safety. If VRF funds enable a more efficient transportation system with the latest technologies to manage traffic flow, instead of road widening as a stock solution, 61 percent are more likely to support a measure.

The survey's overall margin of error is +/- 3.4 percent for a sample group of 807 people.

Also refer to "Forward thinking to deliver transportation in Alameda County" (January 20, 2010, issue of Tri-City Voice).

For more information, visit www.accma.ca.gov, click on "Meetings," then click on "Expenditure Plan Steering Committee" or email CMA Executive Director Dennis Fay at dfay@accma.ca.gov.

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