The GIS/GPS-based road user charge system is being studied because of a significant forecasted deficiency in paying for road maintenance and construction. This deficiency is largely due to forecasted escalating costs of gasoline and fuel efficiency subsidies that will result in more fuel-efficient vehicles. Also driving this exploration of the mileage tax is a fairness issue between gas-sipping and gas-guzzling vehicle owners in paying for maintenance. Both of these reasons, at a minimum, warrant a study of the mileage tax.
A GPS/GIS-based road user charge system also affords an opportunity to cut other externalities, if built into the system. With the right information, incentives can be built in to charge based on things such as vehicle weight, road construction quality (differentiating the charge between gravel and concrete roads, for example), driving near an environmentally sensitive area, actual tailpipe emissions, congestion, driving in inclimate weather, excessive speeding, not wearing seat belts, and driving with or without insurance. The advantage of incorporating such things, if technically and administratively feasible, is safer roads, healthier environment, stable funding source for road maintenance, and hopefully a shift toward transit-oriented development.
There are many challenges to a GIS/GPS-based road user charge system, not the least of which providing adequate privacy safeguards. The history of the Bush Administration (and other past Presidents, both Democrat and Republican), with regards to privacy makes me leary of implementing any GPS/GIS-based system. Nevertheless, I wonder whether such concerns are overblown. Nearly every new GMC-manufactured car has On-Star. Many other vehicle manufactures have similar GPS-based systems. We have no constitutional protections when it comes to Corporate America violating our privacy, just statutory and common law protections. Furthermore, Corporate America is not accountable to democracy in the same way elected representatives and senators are. If all cars are going to have GPS systems on-board, would you rather have corporations or government managing them?
Implementing GPS/GIS-based road user charge systems also has technical and administrative challenges. Some posters have talked about electric cars being juiced-up at home and work instead of at a fueling station where Oregon's research project has kept track of mileage and billed the driver. Other posters have commented that the weight of the vehicle must be taken into account for true road wear-and-tear. These are but two of the challenges. That is why it is important for the state to continue conducting research.
Implementation of a road-user charge system won't happen for another 10 years. Even then, the gas tax is likely to stay for at least another 20 years. We know one day many, and someday all, cars will either be highly fuel efficient or electric. The state will need a new way to pay for the road infrastructure. I think we can all agree it's a good thing the state is thinking and planning for the eventuality.
Most Oregonians want to end our dependency on oil and shift toward a more economically and environmentally sustainable fuel source for personal transportation. The sooner we have a 21st Century transportation system, the better. But the sooner we get there, the sooner we'll need a mileage tax. Keep doing the research Oregon!
posted 4 years, 4 months ago
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