Growing support for mileage-based user fees

By Bill Holloway

Recent survey results indicate growing public support for road-user fees as a way of paying for transportation infrastructure. HNTB’s most recent America THINKS survey, conducted in March, found that 65 percent of Americans would support user fees such as mileage-based user fees (MBUF), also known as vehicle-miles traveled fees.  While there was a generational divide on the question, with 77 percent of 18-24 year-olds supporting the idea versus 63 percent of older Americans, the survey found widespread support. The margin of error in the survey was +/- 3.1 percent.

These findings show a sharp jump in support for the idea over the last two years. A similar survey in 2014 showed support at 50 percent.

A 2016 NCHRP Synthesis on public perception of MBUF looked surveys between 1995-2015 and found that support for these types of fees ranged between 8 and 50 percent, with an average of 24 percent. However, the synthesis did find that support has been increasing over time, and that participants in MBUF pilot programs were much more supportive of the idea than the general public. Media stories about MBUFs also grew increasingly positive between 2010 and 2014. On the question of whether the gas tax should be replaced with an MBUF, support for the idea was slightly lower.

While the results of HNTB’s survey may show somewhat of an overly rosy view of MBUFs by the general public, it appears that support for these types of fees is increasing as more states, including Oregon, California, Minnesota, and Washington introduce pilot programs or studies and the public becomes more familiar with the concept.

Bill Holloway is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.