Auto Manifesto

April 14, 2008

Vehicle Miles Traveled – The New Metric for Fees?

According to a recent article in Transport Topics (3/31/2008), Oregon has done a pilot study of nearly 300 motorists who volunteered to be guinea pigs. Their vehicles were fitted with a small GPS data recorder that tracked each.

Of course there are concerns from some about privacy and the “big brother” issue. While I agree that some of those concerns are valid, it really isn’t much different than the GPS features built into our cell phones now.

Anyway, the point of the study was to determine where, when, and how much motorists in the program drove. Instead of charging an 18.4 cent/gallon Federal fuel tax on gasoline as has been the case since 1993, officials are looking at taxes/tolls/fees based on each mile driven, and at what times (congestion pricing).

This is intended to ensure adequate continued highway funding as vehicles become more efficient and use less fuel,

I will point out though that a fuel tax on a per gallon basis will tax constituents on how much fuel they use rather than how much they drive. Right now if you drive a vehicle that gets low fuel economy, you get taxed more per mile than if you drive a more efficient vehicle.

With VMT-based taxes, unless there were provisions to account for your vehicles efficiency, you’ll be taxed on how much you travel. It would be better if drivers taxed on a basis that accounted for both the fuel used and the distance traveled in order to encourage less driving (especially during peak hours) and the use of more efficient vehicles.

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