Oregon to test charging for miles instead of gallons

Oregon to test charging for miles instead of gallons

URBANA — One of the issues local budgeters face with the gas tax model is that it's a per-gallon charge — whether gas is $1 or $4 per gallon, the amount drivers pay at the pump for road maintenance is the same.

So as gas prices go up and cars become more fuel-efficient, people buy less gas and the amount of money government agencies have to fix roads goes down.

In 2015, the state of Oregon will launch a pilot program that might solve that problem: 5,000 volunteers will have devices attached to their vehicles to track their mileage. They'll pay 1.5 cents per mile, but get a refund of the gas tax money they pay at the pump.

Under what's known as the "Road Usage Charge Program," those 5,000 test drivers will pay for how much they actually use the road, regardless of how much gas they buy.

"It ensures that everyone using the roads pays their fair share for that road use," according to the Oregon Department of Transportation website.

Of course, letting the state attach a GPS device to your car doesn't come without Orwellian references. Still, ODOT promises that drivers' privacy will be protected: The law requires that personally identifiable information will be made available only to the registered owner or lessee of the car and the agencies responsible for collection of the road use charge.

Information collected by the on-board devices about location and daily use must be destroyed within 30 days after payment processing, dispute resolution or noncompliance investigation. But that has exceptions, like when a driver consents or when the state collects aggregated data for traffic management and research.

PATRICK WADE

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Skepticity wrote on March 31, 2014 at 10:03 am

Many have switched to more fuel efficient vehicles in response to higher fuel prices and a barrage of advertisements about carbon footprints.  Many are bicycling and walking for the same reasons plus fitness.  Because of this we need new ways to garner tax revenue so government can build roads through farms, paint bike lanes, improve creek bridge areas, and fill potholes. 

So we need to tax miles traveled as measured by GPS devices instead of gallons of fuel consumed.  Of course, government will keep the data secret... just like the IRS, just like the phone company, just like (make your own list)...  Aside from political use of confidential government data, the sharing of GPS information will probably start with criminal and divorce courts. 

It is a slippery slope, but privacy is a small thing to sacrifice to keep tax dollars coming to government.

But we shouldn't stop at just tracking and taxing motorized vehicles.  Bicycles use the roads and require a smooth surface free of obstructions, traffic signals and signs, designated bike lanes in some places, snow plowing, etc.  By the way, if you move motorized traffic from sharing two lanes and concentrate the traffic into just one lane to make room for bike lanes, that road with concentrated traffic will wear out faster.  So the bike lanes will significantly add to wear on adjacent traffic lanes. 

Shouldn't bikes also have GPS so they can be tracked and taxed per mile? 

Pedestrians and wheel chairs require sidewalks that are safe, smooth, and safe to travel upon.  Wheelchairs need ramps at intersections.  Sidewalks and ramps will need repairs, too.  So perhaps each person who is walking, biking, using a wheel chair, or driving a motorized vehicle on public streets and sidewalks should be "traxed". 

Maybe we should just implant GPS devices in everyone.  We want to ensure that everyone using the roads (& sidewalks) pays their fair share for that road use. 

football jingoists wrote on March 31, 2014 at 3:03 pm

It would need to be adjusted for axle weight - this makes a big difference -

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/EA/policy_notes/03_policy_notes/0603_new_r...

"...This research indicated that, on average, pavement wear increases at approximately the fourth power of increases in axle weight. Doubling the weight on an axle, in other words, results in an approximately 16-fold (i.e., two to the fourth power, or 2x2x2x2) increase in the amount of stress applied to pavements. The AASHO Road Test research and resulting ESAL factors were also the basis for the often-quoted statement that it takes 9,600 automobiles to do the same pavement damage as one fully-loaded, 80,000-pound, five-axle truck...."

dw wrote on April 01, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Yup. It sure does (need to be adjusted for ESAL -- single axle weight).

And when you do, you find some interesting things:

A city bus does 850 times more road damage per mile than a passenger vehicle (car, van or pickup truck). Then if you google around you can find the CUUATS (Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study) estimate of mileage by various vehicle types and using the multiplier find out that it is indeed our reliance on the buses as our major form of mass transit that is wrecking our roads. Mass transit ridership goes up with gas prices (as well as bicycling, walking, etc) meaning less gas sales and less taxes coming into the coffers. Add into that the fact that municipal agencies do not pay the gas tax. The MTD is a municipal agency.

Contrast this with if the citizenry of the C-U metro area had followed the lead of the MTD on that light electric rail: you can't beat the efficiency of steel wheels on steel rail compared to rubber bus wheels on cement (and the savings in road wear). You can't beat the efficiency of electric motors over gasoline. And now that both cities are part of Municipal Electric Aggregation and have contracted for sustainably-produced electricity at less-than 5-cents per KWH. The bulk of our mass transit miles would now be green, and our potholes would virtually disappear: try bicycling on a bus route on campus and you'll immediately understand... Electricity is also far cheaper (and stable) energy source as it can be produced from many different types of fuels.

Americans (particularly those in C-U) really need to learn the difference between an luxury expenditure and an investment in long-term savings: total cost of operation v. large up-front investment and long-term savings. The MTD and Champaign-Urbana political leadership nearly got run-out on a rail by the conservative citizenry back in the early 2000's for suggesting such a luxury. Think of them fondly every time you hit one of those bone-jarring pot holes that take up the whole lane!

Sources: CUUATS web page/report (local mileage by vehicle type), and google "what causes road wear" and skip to slides 14 & 15 of Philip A. Viton of The Ohio State University's PDF that shows the answer....