Charge by the mile—win a free trip

States must offer an incentive for those being charged by the mile

Blog Entry July 30, 2012

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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Not long ago when I was dropping my daughter off at daycare, one of the parents was boasting about his ability to make his own gasoline for his car. He was glowing—and I am not sure if it was due to the lie he was getting away with or his God-given talent to make his own fuel brew. If he was telling the truth, this guy must be a borderline genius—and a full-blown crook.


By following his own recipe for the explosive liquid, he is avoiding paying any kind of gas tax. Those who own electric vehicles, and even ones that reach 35 miles per gallon, are experiencing the same kind of freedom.


More and more of the tax dodgers are filling the highways, making the call for a mileage-based user fee all the more urgent.


The U.S., however, still remains years away from instituting such a plan. Studies in states like Oregon continue to drag on, and apparently one of the biggest obstacles in implementing a mileage-based user fee is public acceptance. One of the most promising solutions to that dilemma is offering incentives in exchange for having the government agency tap into your odometer and charge a certain fee. Many of the pilot studies offer monetary incentives, and if you possess an electronic toll transponder chances are you get some degree of relief out on the road. In Illinois, those who subscribe to I-Pass pay half compare to those who do not.


It sounds like an effective nugget to play. The state could offer the ones who are willing to be charged by the mile the ability to claim a tax write-off for their sacrifice. Perhaps solo drivers would be able to use car-pool lanes if they agree to the plan.


Something needs to be done with the initial wave, because once those motorists are convinced that the system is the right way to go—and the whole privacy issue is not worth getting all worked up about—the word will spread and more people will join in. That is the way it worked with I-Pass, and I have no doubt it will unfold in much the same way with a mileage-based system.


However, we need to get the system off the ground once and for all. The one who is first to launch will be bragging about it in no time.

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