Pricing Road Use for Mitigation and Revenue
Interest in the use of road pricing as a central element of a climate change and energy conservation mitigation strategy is growing at the same time that state departments of transportation are seriously considering replacing or supplementing fuel taxes with charges for distance traveled. (As described below, fuel taxes are the principal source of revenues to pay for highway and transit systems.) For any road pricing policy to be implemented, an efficient charging mechanism is needed. Road pricing can be fairly readily done on existing corridors by using smart card technologies (e.g., E-ZPass), which are heavily relied on by toll roads throughout the northeastern states. Pricing road use beyond specific corridors, however, requires additional development and testing.
Mileage charging concepts in development that are designed to raise revenues could be readily adjusted to incorporate energy conservation and environmental goals. Two commissions created by Congress in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users to address anticipated revenue shortfalls to the Highway Trust Fund endorsed the concept. The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (2009, 7) endorsed an aggressive R&D program to test different mileage charging concepts to serve both environmental and revenue goals. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (2008, 52–54) also endorsed the concept of mileage charging and recommended a follow-up study to evaluate technical feasibility and to address privacy concerns.
The first section of this appendix provides an overview of the reasons why mileage charging has emerged both as a promising concept for raising revenue to fund surface transportation infrastructure and as a central element of a mitigation program. The second section outlines the
main unanswered policy and technical questions about mileage charging mechanisms that an R&D program could address. The final section outlines the key elements of such an R&D program, what it might cost, and management principles that would produce the most effective results.
Fuel taxes (gasoline and diesel) provide about two-thirds of the total user fees and about half of all the revenue collected by all levels of government and used to fund highway and transit infrastructure (TRB 2006). Thus, fuel taxes are central to the more than $160 billion invested annually by government agencies in roads and transit. The long-term viability of fuel taxes as a principal source of funding is threatened by political resistance to raising these taxes periodically to adjust for inflation and increased fuel efficiency of the motor vehicle fleet, which is causing less revenue to be collected per vehicle mile traveled. Inflation alone has eroded the buying power of federal fuel tax revenues by 33 percent since the federal gasoline tax was last increased in 1993 (National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission 2009, 2). Even as buying power has eroded since 1993, national vehicle miles of travel (VMT) have increased 27 percent.
The committee that prepared The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding (TRB 2006) recognized the threats to the fuel tax as a revenue-raising approach but concluded that fuel taxes could continue to be an important source of funding for transportation programs for another 15 years; it also concluded that “travelers and the public would benefit greatly from a transition to a fee structure that more directly charged vehicle operators for their actual use of roads” (TRB 2006, 3). The committee concluded that mileage charging appeared to be “the most promising technique for directly assessing road users for the costs of individual trips.”
In federal surface transportation reauthorization legislation of 2005, Congress created the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission to provide guidance on the future of the motor fuels tax, among other things. The 2009 commission report concludes
that because of the backlog in infrastructure rehabilitation and expansion needs and the eroding buying power of motor fuel tax revenues, the nation faces a genuine crisis (National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission 2009, 2). The commission concludes that the nation is underinvesting in infrastructure and underpricing road use. It recommends that the nation
commence the transition to a new, more comprehensive user charge system as soon as possible and commit to deploying a comprehensive system by 2020. Because of the complexity inherent in transitioning to a new revenue system and the urgency of the need, the Commission recommends that Congress embark immediately on an aggressive research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) program. (National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission 2009, 9)
At the same time that the nation is grappling with how to fund infrastructure, it is beginning to come to grips with how to mitigate transportation’s role in energy dependence and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As described in Chapter 3, pricing users directly for road use is likely to be central to any successful mitigation strategy. In the past, proposals to charge for road use were infeasible because of the high administrative cost of establishing tollbooths and the user delays they cause. Advances in electronics and telecommunications technology, however, have made it possible to charge users efficiently, as millions of daily users of E-ZPass toll tags can attest. Still open to question is how to charge users for the use of all roads in a way that is politically acceptable (protects privacy), that is affordable, and that best incorporates policy goals to mitigate energy demand and GHG emissions.
QUESTIONS TO BE RESOLVED
Special Report 285
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) committee that recommended mileage charging concluded that conversion to mileage charging would require a sustained national effort (TRB 2006, 191–192). Policy and technical issues to be resolved include determination of goals, authorities for
setting fees and controlling revenue, and how to best include the private sector. The following were among the most challenging issues identified:
Gaining public acceptance of a new and unfamiliar system that could be perceived as a threat to privacy, be perceived as charging some users unfairly, and result in substantially higher charges for some users;
Transitioning from a simple system of collecting fuel taxes from a few distributors to charging more than 100 million daily users, which would require equipping some 250 million vehicles with new technologies over an extended period of time; and
Setting appropriate prices for road use for a system that has never been priced in such a way.
The committee recommended that the federal government take the lead in funding an R&D program that would involve the states. It recommended large-scale system demonstrations that would build on the mileage charging pilot programs completed and under way and learn from implementation of the truck mileage charging system in place in Germany. The objectives would be to evaluate reliability, flexibility, cost, security, and enforceability of various designs and to gain information about institutional requirements for administering such systems, user acceptance, and costs.
Pilot studies would be needed that simulate the important aspects of systems as realistically as possible, including setting rates, billing and collecting fees, enforcement, and coping with malfunctions. Research would also be undertaken on how fees should be set and a program administered.
The Financing Commission (National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission 2009, 218–219) identified the following list of key issues and concerns about mileage charging to be resolved through R&D:
Protection of privacy;
Impact on rural drivers who lack options to driving;
Optional methods related to method and point of collection;
Provision for multiple means of payment;
Whether to transition all vehicles at once or through a staggered schedule;
Avoidance of the requirement to pay both a mileage charge and fuel taxes;
Potential for introducing mileage charging as an optional payment over fuel taxes;
Whether and how to charge different vehicles (cars and trucks) different rates; and
How to provide the positional accuracy necessary to support federal, state, local, and private charges for specific facilities.
The commission also recommended research on closely related policy topics, particularly on “the true transportation cost impacts of various classes of vehicles, including the costs of environmental impacts, as well as the behavioral response to cost (i.e. price elasticity) so that Congress can decide to what extent the future system should take these full costs into account and facilitate the transition to pricing strategies” (National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission 2009, 219).
Both the TRB committee that prepared its 2006 report and the Financing Commission recognized that many technical issues that would have to be resolved through research and demonstration projects are embedded in these questions.
Policy and Revenue Study Commission
The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission endorsed the general concept of mileage charging but pointed out some important issues that would need to be studied and resolved. The commission recommended a two-phase effort that would begin with a study to determine technical feasibility and address privacy concerns, potential evasion, and the ability to adjust fees to account for wear and tear on highways caused by different classes of vehicle (National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission 2008, 52). If the first-phase study concluded that mileage charging was feasible, a second phase would
conduct several large-scale pilot programs to test alternative mechanisms for levying a VMT fee. These pilot programs should include both passenger and freight vehicles and should evaluate the full range of potential issues that
might arise in the implementation of a VMT fee. The study should also assess necessary standards that must be set, the roles of public and private sector organizations in implementing the tax, transitional techniques such as incentives for rental and leased fleets, and other key elements of a transition strategy. Results should be mandated within 3 years. If questions still remain about the feasibility of a VMT fee, the Phase II study should develop transition strategies for implementing other recommended alternatives. (National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission 2008, 53)
Whitty and Svadlenak
To assist the committee in developing an R&D proposal in this area, the committee commissioned a paper by James Whitty and John Svadlenak of the Oregon Department of Transportation (Whitty and Svadlenak 2009). These authors were centrally involved in a 6-year, large-scale pilot program of mileage charging in Oregon that was completed in 2007. The authors were asked to provide a detailed list of the topics that need to be better understood through research, development, and demonstration programs. A summary of key research topics is provided below; more detail can be found in their paper.
Under this heading are fundamental questions about who should design and implement a system and whether it should be federal, be allowed to develop on a state-by-state basis, or be designed at the outset as a federal system that states and local jurisdictions could opt into or out of. Implicit in any design are significant questions about how revenues would be generated and allocated and the nature of the rates to be applied (flat rate per mile, an environmental charge to reflect vehicle fuel efficiency, and whether to include congestion or time-of-day charges). Any system combining federal, state, and local charging systems adds to the complexity of governance; how these relationships should be sorted out is an important topic for the proposed research.
Most system concepts for full-scale mileage charging envision an onboard device that would measure VMT or allow VMT to be estimated, which implies an extended period over which a program would be phased in.
If such devices had to be built into new vehicles (to avoid or minimize tampering), it would take more than 15 years to turn over the majority of the personal vehicle fleet once a decision is made to introduce new technology. Moreover, the technology to be required is far from being defined. Thus, it could take two decades or more to transition fully to a system that is based on built-in onboard devices.
To address the lengthy transition problem, Whitty and Svadlenak propose one interim system based on electronic tags that can be added to vehicles, perhaps on license plates, and Donath et al. (2009) have proposed another design based on relatively simple add-on technology that could estimate VMT without requiring the Global Positioning System (GPS).1 (Although a GPS receiver by itself does not compromise privacy since it does not send a return signal, it is widely perceived by the public to allow for tracking of individual movements and therefore to be a threat to privacy.) Clearly, some sort of interim system will need to be designed, tested, and administered while the vehicle fleet is being outfitted with onboard technologies capable of more sophisticated pricing alternatives. [Note that Donath et al. (2009) believe that their interim system could be adapted to allow environmental charges to be added on the basis of vehicle characteristics. They also believe that simple congestion pricing schemes could be added to the mileage charge unless they require information about traveling on specific routes. Travel on specific routes or classes of roads may require GPS.] A recent report (Sorensen et al. 2009) outlines technology and implementation options for moving to an interim system of mileage charging as soon as 2015.
Technology and Subsystems
Whitty and Svadlenak urge that system design be driven by policy choices rather than by the features of available technologies, but they recognize that there are many technology options that need to be explored with
regard to cost, reliability, ability to audit, and privacy protection. (Very different systems with different technologies could be used for personal vehicles as opposed to commercial trucks because of the differences in privacy concerns and the higher degree of regulation that applies to commercial transportation.) Also important to understand are which technologies are available “off the shelf” and which would require further development, such as the devices that would be needed on board vehicles that would register distances traveled (and possibly the route and time of travel) and communicate this information to a billing system.
The following are other technology topics to be investigated:
Whether there are technologies other than GPS, such as the concept proposed by Donath et al. (2009), that could recognize jurisdictional boundaries.
Whether GPS, odometers, or some other technique should be relied on to register mileage. (In tests in Oregon’s pilot project, GPS was more accurate than odometers, which can vary with tire pressure, but GPS may not end up as a design element for the privacy reasons cited above.)
Whether and how onboard devices for registering distance traveled can be designed to be tamper-proof or at least highly resistant to tampering, and whether a retrofit of tamper-resistant technologies could be added to existing vehicles at an affordable cost. (If inexpensive tamper-resistant devices could be added to existing vehicles, a mileage charging system could be implemented more readily.)
How the vehicle and the billing system can communicate most efficiently, cost-effectively, and securely (e.g., cellular, wireless, smart card, shortwave radio frequency).
Possible integration with the technologies being developed jointly by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the automobile industry under the vehicle–infrastructure integration (VII) initiative.
Many system designs are possible, and they should be determined on the basis of policy objectives. Systems for commercial vehicles could follow the model of the proven system in place for the German Autobahn, although Donath et al. (2009) believe that their proposal could be considerably more cost-effective. Systems for personal vehicles could follow
the model to be tested in the Netherlands, in which vehicles communicate directly to a central billing system. Alternatively, a personal vehicle charging system could follow the “pay at the pump” model developed and tested in Oregon or the system proposed by Donath et al. (2009). In the Oregon system, which was designed to accommodate a lengthy phase-in period, vehicles could be charged at the pump while they were refueling (and the fuel taxes deducted at payment) or, if they were not outfitted with onboard technologies, could simply pay the fuel tax. Donath et al. suggest that their interim system could also employ this feature by using different technologies and a less cumbersome billing system (by relying on credit cards). The relative net benefits of these models should be compared on the basis of the criteria a system would be expected to meet.
Components of any of these systems require further evaluation, such as
The optimal location of information transfer between vehicles and the central billing system (roadside, gas pump, commercial stations);
How environmental or congestion prices could be layered on top of a flat-rate mileage fee;
How to charge hybrid and electric vehicles, motorcycles, and vehicles pulling trailers; and
How to integrate mileage charging with toll road charging systems to avoid overcharging.
Capital and Operating Costs
The current fuel tax system has a considerable advantage over alternatives for collecting user fees because it is a relatively simple and inexpensive program to design and administer. The charges are assessed to a few fuel suppliers and evasion is difficult. The cost of administering Oregon’s system is roughly $1 million annually (Whitty and Svadlenak 2009); this suggests that the administrative cost nationwide of administering the current fuel tax collection system is in the neighborhood of $50 million to $100 million annually, which is far less than 1 percent of fuel tax revenues. Administration of road mileage charging systems would be much more costly. If onboard devices cost as much as $50 for a design based on cellular communication with a central billing system, the cost of equipping the entire fleet of 250 million vehicles would be at least $25 billion, to say nothing of the cost of developing and administering a billing system,
managing and distributing revenues, enforcement, auditing, and other operational costs (Sorensen et al. 2009).
A simpler interim system that is based on installing an electronic vehicle identifier (perhaps on license plates), tag readers at gasoline pumps, and connections between the readers and a centralized billing system was proposed by Whitty and Svadlenak. Such a system might be only one-fifth as expensive as the cellular–central billing model, but the expense would still be an order of magnitude greater than that of the current system.2 [A cost estimate of the interim system developed by Donath et al. (2009) is not yet available.] Total system cost will depend on system design, and the cost of billing, collecting, and adjudicating fees would have to be added. Such detailed cost estimates will need to be developed for a range of options.
Public Understanding and Acceptance
The transition from a well-understood and accepted system of taxing road users (the gas tax) to an unfamiliar model, such as mileage charging, can be expected to be difficult. Whitty and Svadlenak report that the pilot program tested in Oregon was met with a good deal of media and public misunderstanding and hostility. For any transition of this magnitude to be acceptable, multiple elements would be required: careful system design based on elements the public would accept; a communications strategy to educate and prepare the public for change; and, possibly, a gradual system of introduction to build public understanding and acceptance.
Research in this area would begin with trying to discern what issues the public is most concerned about (privacy, equity, accuracy), what technologies or system designs it finds most threatening, and which system approaches it might find most acceptable. Presumably this research would be conducted through focus groups and well-designed opinion surveys and would begin with public opinion concerning simple flat-rate mileage charging and then move on to public reaction to environmental or congestion charges.
A communications strategy is not really a research topic, but research could help inform the design of the most effective strategy. Moreover, research, particularly large-scale demonstration programs that include considerable public outreach and information sharing as a central component, could be an integral part of a communications strategy.
A gradual phase-in of mileage charging is also not in and of itself a research topic, but research could test approaches to phasing in mileage charging to determine the most promising ones from a public acceptance perspective.
Included in this category are a variety of economic and policy-oriented topics, such as addressing the equity implications of alternative mileage charging designs; estimating travel demand (price elasticity) at various pricing levels to forecast revenue; analyzing and forecasting possible land use impacts of various pricing programs; developing appropriate charges for environmental impacts; and analyzing congestion pricing options, including how additional revenues raised with congestion pricing should be used.
R&D DESIGN, COST, AND MANAGEMENT
All four of the references relied on above (TRB 2006; National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission 2009; National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission 2008; Whitty and Svadlenak 2009) consider large-scale demonstration programs and related research on policy and technical issues to be essential in advancing the concept of mileage charging. This section compares the design approaches the various authors recommend and provides estimates of research program cost, when they are included as part of these reports.
The committee that prepared Special Report 285 suggested a phased approach that would begin with small-scale technology demonstrations and then move to large-scale trials at the metropolitan, state, or multistate level. The trials were envisioned as a necessary part of an implementation strategy. Among the possibilities are a trial for trucks only that might occur within a state or a collection of states, a system for all vehicles that might
occur at a metropolitan scale, and a system for all vehicles that might occur at a state or multistate scale. The trials would be designed as experiments for learning what works and what does not, how the public reacts, what systems would cost, and how designs could be improved.
The Financing Commission was not explicit about research design but emphasized the importance of technical demonstrations and policy research. The commission did have suggestions about the organization of the research, which are discussed in the next section. The Policy and Revenue Study Commission was also not specific about study design but did have recommendations about organization.
Whitty and Svadlenak envisioned an aggressive pace for conducting the research they identify and for conducting a series of large-scale demonstrations. They envisioned a program with two technical teams (one for passenger vehicles and one for motor carriers) that would be interdisciplinary and would consult with interested parties. The teams would have a short time (12 months) to prepare a Phase I report to Congress on
Feasibility of implementation
Identification of potential collection mechanisms
System operations costs
System risk and redundancy
Integration with other tax collection systems
Seamlessness of transition
Technological reliability and security and mitigation of component failures
Evasion and avoidance risks
Collection and enforcement effectiveness
Privacy protection and audit ability
Ease of use by the motoring public
Breadth of payer base
Transparency and ability to send a price signal
Adaptability for congestion pricing
Adaptability for environmental pricing and recovery of externalities, including acting as a carbon tax surrogate
Potential for inclusion of an option for adoption by local government jurisdictions
Benefit/cost analysis of mileage charging system alternatives, including comparisons of alternatives that are integrated with existing state, local and
private sector operating systems, all within the context of likely vehicle market acceptance factors, likely policy choices and public acceptability
Optimum system architecture
Integration with VII
Possible phase-in schedule. (Whitty and Svadlenak 2009, 126–127)
Within 18 months, Whitty and Svadlenak envision a Phase II report that would
provide a determination of the feasibility of transitioning to a mileage-based charging system. This report would:
Make policy recommendations on the key pivot issues that determine system design and public acceptance;
Define an evolutionary system….;
Determine a likely rate structure….;
Address the specific research needs identified [in Chapters 5 through 8 of the Whitty and Svadlenak paper]; and
Finalize recommendations on system architecture for permanent, introductory, and interim systems, as needed. (Whitty and Svadlenak 2009, 127)
Whitty and Svadlenak also envision a series of concurrently conducted large-scale demonstration programs:
As part of Phase Three, the policy oversight body should direct several technology tests and pilot programs that prepare the nation for implementation of the preferred mileage-based charging system, and perhaps an interim system as well.
Potential pilot programs. The Federal government should identify several states willing to conduct pilot programs to advance specific aspects of the research agenda. In order to assure timely completion, USDOT should grant appropriate relief from administrative regulations for research efforts under these pilot programs. The authors suggest the following specific pilot studies:
Technology Refinement Pilot Program for the Closed System Pay-at-the-pump Model. This study would select and commercially refine the optimum technologies for the pay-at-the-pump model and include integration of equipment in vehicle manufacturing and fueling station processes and anti-tampering strategies. This study would develop a timeline for commencement of deployment through full implementation and complete capital and operating costs estimates.
Central Billing Pilot Program. This study would complete system development for the central billing approach and test the central billing system
operationally. This study would develop a timeline for commencement of deployment through full implementation and complete capital and operating costs estimates.
Open System Pilot Program for the Integrated Approach. This study would integrate the pay-at-the-pump model with elements of the central billing model under an open system that is cryptographically secure with after-market on-vehicle devices, addressing privacy, enforcement, and auditing issues. This study would test voluntary adoption of this mileage charging system. This study would develop a timeline for commencement of deployment through full implementation and complete capital and operating costs estimates.
Electronic Toll Road Integration Pilot Program. This study would examine and test integration of mileage charging systems with modern electronic tolling technology and toll roads.
VMT Estimate Pilot Program. This study would complete development and prove implementation viability for this interim mileage charging collection system. [The system proposed by Donath et al. (2009) should also be tested.]
Electronic Weight–Distance Tax Pilot Program for Heavy Commercial Vehicles. This study would identify and deploy the technology and systems necessary for imposition of an electronic weight–distance tax for the motor carrier fleet applied either in one state or in several contiguous states. This study would develop a timeline for commencement of deployment through full implementation and complete capital and operating costs estimates.
Multi-state Contiguous Broad Scale Pilot Program. In preparation for commencement of implementation of a mileage charging system nationally, it will be necessary to conduct a multi-state pilot program for contiguous states that tests on a broad-scale the preferred mileage charging collection system identified by the policy oversight body. This study will test the preferred system, including its interstate data and charge collection and distribution elements. Such a test might be conducted by contiguous member states of the I-95 Corridor Coalition or the West Coast Corridor Coalition.
These pilot programs should be conducted by states currently taking concrete steps toward electronic mileage charging system development such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas. Consideration should also be given to other states showing interest such as Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Washington, Nevada and Colorado. (Whitty and Svadlenak 2009, 128–129)
Within 42 months of the issuance of the Phase II report (within 5 years of enactment of the authorizing legislation), a Phase III report would be
delivered to Congress that summarizes the results of the demonstrations and related research:
Statewide pilot programs for testing, public outreach and Congressional education
A broad scale pilot program in preparation for ultimate adoption, building from the statewide pilot program research efforts
Refinement of system technology to commercial viability, including setting final technology component specifications and database requirements
Identification of transition issues and required steps
Development of a full implementation timeline
Development of data to enable congressional staff to advance statements of fiscal impact for directly related legislation in 2015 (Whitty and Svadlenak 2009, 128)
Whitty and Svadlenak suggest that the next authorization period, which is scheduled to begin in October 2009 but may be delayed by 18 months, be devoted to research and testing, and that the following authorization be devoted to consensus building, so that a full-scale system could be implemented beginning in 2021. They also suggest that a simple interim system might be implemented at a much earlier date.
Although the topics Whitty and Svadlenak identify have merit, a 6-year research, development, and testing cycle may be too accelerated for a new system that has as much interagency and cross-governmental-level complexity as mileage charging. Furthermore, the subject involves controversial topics, particularly privacy, that could result in public misunderstanding and rejection if they are not handled carefully. Consensus concerning an appropriate mileage charging system may be achievable within 10 to 12 years of beginning an R&D, outreach, and public discernment process in a nation as large and diverse as the United States. It would be impractical and possibly counterproductive, however, to try to force the R&D to be done too quickly. An accelerated schedule could lead to poorly designed projects, waste, and failed demonstrations.
Only Whitty and Svadlenak provided cost estimates for conducting the recommended research. On the basis of Oregon’s experience in running
its pay-at-the-pump demonstration, they estimate $70 million to $80 million in R&D costs as follows: Phase I, $5 million; Phase II, $7 million; and Phase III, $60 million.
This estimate may be too low. If the research is organized as Whitty and Svadlenak recommend, establishing a new commission and staffing it with senior professionals capable of managing, say, a 12-year research and demonstration program could easily cost $5 million annually, or $60 million over the 12 years.3 If the demonstrations themselves only cost $5 million apiece, which seems low, their total cost would be $35 million. To this a cost of $1 million each for each of the seven areas of research recommended by Whitty and Svadlenak must be added, which totals $7 million. These figures add up to $102 million. Thus, in round terms it is probably most realistic to think of a large-scale demonstration of at least $100 million (about $8.3 million per year over a 12-year period).
Special Report 285 did not address research organization. The Financing Commission recommended that the research program be overseen by a
multi-modal body within USDOT that combines technology, policy, tax administration, and systems expertise, similar to the agency created on a much smaller scale by the state of Oregon for its road pricing pilot project. Coordination will be required among several modal administrations…. An example of such a multi-modal coordinating body within USDOT can be found in the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Joint Program Office for ITS Research. (National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission 2009, 218).
The Financing Commission notes that the work of this group should be overseen by an independent advisory committee with appropriate representation that would include organizations focused on civil liberties and privacy.
The Policy and Revenue Study Commission called for Phases I and II of its recommended study to be led by the National Academy of Sciences
(NAS) in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, state highway and revenue agencies, and affected stakeholders.
Whitty and Svadlenak emphasize the need for the work of the research teams to be guided by an independent policy body charged with following the policy direction set by Congress. They suggest a national commission model for this oversight body, with membership representing states, metropolitan planning organizations, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, NAS, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and others. The work of the teams would also receive high-level policy oversight by the Secretary of Transportation.
The Financing Commission, the Policy and Revenue Study Commission, and Whitty and Svadlenak recognize the importance of having the research guided by an independent group involving the many stakeholders who would need to be represented. They differ with regard to how the research would be administered. The Financing Commission suggests that it be carried out by USDOT staff, the Revenue and Policy Study Commission recommends that it be carried out by NAS, and Whitty and Svadlenak recommend that it be carried out by an independent commission with high-level oversight from USDOT.
Mileage charging is technically feasible, but many design and implementation details need to be worked out. Combining mileage charging for raising revenues with policies to mitigate GHGs and conserve energy appears feasible but requires further analysis and demonstration programs to confirm that technologies work as expected and that they would be acceptable to the public. An R&D program to test such concepts would have several elements: large-scale demonstrations of various approaches, parallel research on a variety of topics (administrative costs, privacy, security, ability to audit, etc.), and outreach and education as a central component of the program. A 10- to 12-year program would probably cost on the order of $70 million to $100 million. Because of interagency, intergovernmental, public–private (motor carriers) issues and public concerns about privacy, the work should be guided by an independent group of stakeholders whose members are balanced in terms of perspectives. The
group would necessarily include representatives of federal agencies, states, metropolitan areas, cities, and motor carriers; civil liberties and privacy advocates; academicians; and prominent citizens.
TRB Transportation Research Board
Donath, M., A. Gorjestani, C. Shankwitz, R. Hoglund, E. Arpin, P. Cheng, A. Menon, and B. Newstrom. 2009. Technology Enabling Near-Term Nationwide Implementation of Distance Based Road User Fees. CTS 09-20. Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission. 2009. Paying Our Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance. http://financecommission.dot.gov. Accessed April 28, 2009.
National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. 2008. Transportation for Tomorrow: Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. http://transportationfortomorrow.org/final_report/report_html.aspx. Accessed Aug. 12, 2009.
Sorensen, P., L. Ecola, M. Wachs, M. Donath, L. Munnich, and B. Serian. 2009. NCHRP Web-Only Document 143: Implementable Strategies for Shifting to Direct Usage-Based Charges for Transportation Funding. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C. http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_w143.pdf.
TRB. 2006. Special Report 285: The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding. National Academies, Washington, D.C.
Whitty, J. M., and J. R. Svadlenak. 2009. Discerning the Pathway to Implementation of a National Mileage-Based Charging System. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C.