Revenue proposals for San Francisco transit projects don’t meet total needs 

Dual measures to increase vehicle registration fees and issue a general obligation bond for transportation improvements could go before voters next year, but even if approved they would only put a dent in The City’s long-term needs.

The Capital Planning Committee, a consortium of city agencies, has proposed adding both measures to the November 2014 ballot. Combined with increased transfers from The City’s general fund, they would generate $790 million over 10 years.

However, The City has $3.1 billion in transportation improvement needs over the next decade, and that doesn’t include expanded plans for pedestrian and bike upgrades.

“This is a great first step, but it doesn’t solve the whole puzzle,” said Ed Reiskin, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

As part of recently passed state legislation, the Board of Supervisors can opt to put an increase to The City’s vehicle license fee before voters.

If two-thirds of the board approves, voters will have the option of raising the current annual fee from 1.15 percent to 2 percent. A person with a vehicle worth $15,000 would see his or her registration fees increase from $172.50 to $300. The measure could pass with a simple majority of voters.

That measure would generate $440 million over a decade. Most of those funds would be used for street repaving projects. A bond measure passed in 2011 for street repaving is scheduled to expire next year, and the vehicle license fee would provide a consistent funding stream for such work.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, expressed disappointment that cycling improvements would not be funded by vehicle license fee revenue.

“We’re really surprised by that, especially since the leadership of the SFMTA have placed such emphasis on bike improvement projects as real cost-efficient measures,” Shahum said.

The general obligation bond would be worth $150 million and be used for transit improvement projects as well as pedestrian and bike safety improvements. That would require a two-thirds majority of voters for approval.

The two ballot initiatives would be paired with an extra $200 million in general funds for transportation improvements over the next 10 years. In total, $790 million would be spent on the Transportation and Streets Infrastructure Package.

On Monday, the capital committee gave preliminary recommendations to move the package forward, although the Board of Supervisors and various city agencies will have the chance to tweak it over the next year.

Over that time, Reiskin is hopeful that more money can be identified for projects. Mayor Ed Lee has set up a task force to examine other potential financing measures. There also is a chance that the $150 million bond could be increased, depending on The City’s fiscal outlook, Reiskin said.

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Will Reisman

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