Taxed by the mile

News December 08, 2000
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Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Texas, Washington and the Federal Highway Administration are sponsori


Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Texas, Washington and the Federal Highway Administration are sponsoring research to develop a system that uses GPS satellites and on-board navigational technology to track highway user travel. According to The ATSSA Flash, a newsletter published by the American Traffic Safety Services Association, the data collected would be used to fund highway construction.


An on-board computer would record how many miles each car or truck travels on each road in each state. A government clearinghouse would then analyze the data and mail drivers a bill, assessing them a state tax for miles driven in each state they have traveled.


Researchers hope to develop a prototype to evaluate within the next few years. Transportation planners say the change from the current gasoline excise taxes to GPS-based mileage taxes might ensure adequate funding for road construction and also reduce congestion.


In addition to replacing gas excise taxes, the system could lower vehicle registration, licensing fees and gas prices, eliminate tollbooths and allow businesses to build and run highways.


Researchers and transportation officials agree privacy concerns are among the biggest issues that must be resolved before the system can be implemented. To address these concerns, the computers could be programmed to record only general data to track how many miles a driver travels on each type of road in a given state, but not the details of each route traveled.


States could set restrictions prohibiting the information from being used for anything other than tax bills.


As an added benefit, the proposed system gives every driver a satellite navigation unit and a way to call for help in an emergency.


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