Hawaii moves toward road usage charge and a clean energy future

With continuously declining fuel tax revenues and growing interest in sustainable modes of transportation, many states have initiated conversations around vehicle miles traveled fees. Hawaii has addressed this topic more aggressively than many others. To compensate for the declining revenue source and consciously prepare for 2045, Hawaii is set to launch its VMT demonstration project this fall. A VMT system is a logical intervention as Hawaii moves toward its goal of an all-electric vehicle fleet, and a mileage-based fee carries a strong price signal for all drivers.

Do mileage-based congestion fees hit low-income drivers harder?

While there is mounting evidence that demand-based pricing—or congestion tolling—can more efficiently manage highway use, serious concerns continue to arise regarding the system’s disproportionate impacts on low-income drivers. However, a recent study by researchers at Purdue University has found that a less onerous tax alternative may exist—one that combines congestion tolling with mileage-based user fees or a VMT tax.

Pricing mechanisms key to reducing transportation emissions

Cities, counties, and states are setting ambitious emissions reduction goals, requiring them to cut transportation sector emissions, which account for more than a quarter of the national total. Electric vehicles powered by clean energy could make a big difference, but it is unlikely those technologies will be deployed at a fast enough rate. To meet their goals, governments need policies that not only keep vehicle use from rising, but also push it down considerably.

Support for transportation taxes and fees: Gauging public opinion

The Mineta Transportation Institute has released its seventh annual survey report of public opinion on a variety of tax policies for funding transportation. Over the years, support for transportation taxes—with the notable exception of a flat rate mileage tax—has grown across demographic groups. However, those who drive the most were the least likely to support user fees. The study found support for a new tax or fee was highest if the new revenue went to maintaining existing streets and highways or if the revenue was dedicated to improving safety.

Growing support for mileage-based user fees

Recent survey results from HNTB indicate growing public support for road-user fees, such as mileage-based user fees and tolls, as a way of paying for transportation infrastructure. These findings show a sharp jump in support for the idea over the last two years as more states, including Oregon, California, Minnesota, and Washington introduce pilot programs or studies and the public becomes more familiar with the concept.

CBO report suggests changes to increase productivity of federal highway program

The Congressional Budget Office just released a new report that outlines problems with the way the federal government spends money on highways and suggests some potential fixes. The report argues that financial challenges have made it even more important that highway funding is spent in the most productive way possible, i.e., maintenance should be prioritized over expansion and spending should better correspond to highways’ use and economic value.

Road Usage Charge Pilot Program Preliminary Findings (Oregon DOT, 2013)

The objective of the Road Usage Charge Pilot Program is to demonstrate several choices for measuring and paying a road usage charge that are easy for motorists to perform while maintaining an efficient collection system administered by multiple interoperable providers, including ODOT and private sector entities.

Report on Impacts of Road Usage Charges in Rural, Urban and Mixed Counties (Oregon DOT, 2013)

This report represents the study of impacts of road usage charges in rural, urban, and mixed counties in Oregon. Despite perceptions that a road usage charge is unfair to rural residents, the data collected and analyzed for this study reveal that rural residents, on average, will not be affected in any significant way by a road usage charge—financially, behaviorally, or technologically.

Virginia governor proposes scrapping gas tax, raising sales tax to fund transportation

Most discussion of possible solutions to the problem of stagnant gas tax revenues has focused on increasing user fees in some way – e.g., by raising fuel taxes, adding tolls, and/or adding VMT-based fees. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s proposal to eliminate the gas tax and pay for transportation with an increased sales tax, thereby abandoning the decades-old concept of funding transportation with user fees, seems to have united both the left and right in opposition.