At the ITS America annual meeting and expo last week, there was much discussion about mileage-based user fees. Trey Baker in particular made a few salient points toward finding a path to a mileage-based user fee that will be accepted by the public.
Baker, an associate transportation researcher at the Texas Transportation Institute, said the public does not perceive the funding crisis that is well-known within transportation’s inner circles. The public also believes federal transportation money is wasted. A successful mileage-based user fee will have to address these obstacles.
Baker said the relationship between people and their cars is undergoing a generational change. Young people no longer see their car as a symbol of their freedom or their connection to the freedom of the open road.
Baker said the country might have to wait for a turnover in the vehicle fleet and in the driver pool for a new user-fee regime to take hold.
He said the proposed legislation in Oregon to tax electric vehicles, which use the roads without paying a fuel tax, might be a good first step. The system could begin by focusing on one type of vehicle. The Oregon legislation failed to pass the state legislature the first time, but it will be raised again.
When the fee system becomes mandatory, Baker said, privacy becomes an issue, and public resistance mounts. A successful mileage-based user fee will have to be consumer-driven, a choice, with an option to opt out and pay another way, probably a flat fee, similar to a vehicle registration fee.