Former US DOT Bosses Call for Mileage Tax and Congestion Fees

Bottlenecks cripple our productivity, and transitioning among modes of transportation remains a convoluted and inefficient process nationwide, with some major cities being the few exceptions. Concerns about the environmental impact of these inefficiencies further highlight the need for systems that offer quick, interconnected and efficient means for transportation.

It's all about getting folks home on time for dinner. ##http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/the-psychological-toll-of-automobile-traffic/##The Situationist##
The Miller Center report suggests strategies to reduce vehicle trips in order to "get folks home on time for dinner." ##http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/the-psychological-toll-of-automobile-traffic/##The Situationist##

The message today from two Republican-appointed former Secretaries of Transportation sounds a lot like the language you hear from reform groups advocating for an overhaul of federal transportation policy.

Norman Mineta and Samuel Skinner co-chaired a conference at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs last fall. The report from that conference, issued yesterday, offers some recommendations for moving national transportation policy [PDF].

The conference report tackles the most pressing question facing the nation’s transportation system today: how to pay for much-needed maintenance and improvements. The authors are in favor of switching from a gas tax to a fee levied on vehicle miles traveled. They say technology exists to ease privacy concerns, and they want to see a VMT fee that charges more for travel during peak hours.

They also echoed the sentiments of many reformers who want to get beyond spending on shovel-ready projects, which tends to favor highways, and start choosing projects strategically. The Miller Center report applauds the potential of transportation infrastructure to provide short-term jobs, but says:

Future stimulus spending should be directed to those transportation projects that will deliver the greatest returns in terms of future U.S. competitiveness, economic growth, and jobs. Building a foundation for sustained prosperity and long-term job creation is more important than boosting short-term employment in road construction.

The authors also encourage a new way of thinking about building infrastructure: that it’s truly an investment, not an expenditure. With investments, the money comes back — and “the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should score the anticipated return on investment when it evaluates transportation spending proposals.” The report acknowledges that this is a small step, “but it would allow the government to begin evaluating projects based on their long-term benefits and to prioritize those projects that deliver the largest future returns.”

Transportation reformers looking to create a more equitable, sustainable and economically competitive system have explained that much depends on how the government would score transportation spending. As NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik Khan noted at a conference last fall, a highway expansion will look like a good investment if you measure its performance when traffic is still flowing smoothly, and a poor one if you measure after more drivers have been enticed to use the road, tying up traffic again.

  • Ross Anderson

    Raise Fed Tax on fuel,less people can afford to drive.This is what happens.Same as Raise price on stamps=less mail is used.DUHHHHH.Talk about STUPID OFFICIALS.And the WORST is President of our own country.

  • The report recommends moving away from a gas tax because with an increase in fuel efficiency, a fuel tax is an unreliable funding source. Yet burning less fuel is exactly what we want people to do. Additionally, smaller vehicles place a lesser load on the infrastructure and cause less congestion. Taxation is a source of revenue but it is also an instrument of policy. A gas tax is a far superior instrument to a simple mileage fee. It could be argued a combination is preferred, but the simplest approach is to simply raise the gas tax to a level at which it is more effective at reducing the demands on our limited transportation resources while simultaneously reducing the damage to the environment and to our national security associated with our unprecedented rate of use of imported oil.

  • The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993.

    Inflation since 1993 — 52%

    A gas tax is simple to administer and encourages the reduction of CO2 emissions, our trade deficit, and our dependence on foreign oil. But of course something that both protects the environment and helps our economy should not even be considered in these tempestuous times. Instead, why not levy a technologically complex vehicle mileage tax (VMT) that offers the additional delightful prospect of compromising our civil liberties?

    Now, in order to play fair, we must consider that the damage inflicted on our roads is proportional to the fourth power of the axle load. This means, if you double the axle weight of a vehicle, it will do sixteen times the road damage, causing the roads to decay and need repair sixteen times faster, etc.

    So let’s consider the case of a Prius vs. a Hummer.

    Prius=3000 lbs
    Hummer = 6000 lbs.

    Therefore, given a Hummer is double the weight, per mile a Hummer owner should pay a 16 times higher VMT tax than a Prius owner.

    Of course, bikes should pay their fair share in our new tax structure. We’re always hearing how bicyclists don’t pay for the roads, and indeed, the freeloading these cyclists do is monstrous. (Federal, state, sales and property taxes dumped into a general fund and then applied towards road maintenance simply don’t count.)

    Regular bike=30lbs
    Electric bike = 60 lbs

    If you charged a regular bike 1/16th cent VMT per mile, you’d have to charge an electric bike a penny a mile, a Prius $62,500 per mile, and a Hummer $1 million per mile.

    I believe all bicyclists should be calling for this tax immediately.

  • Congestion fee, meaning rush hour pricing? A simple method, tried in many cities. But, in my opinion a system favouring people with money, as long as the alternative transport mode (public transport) is of “second rate” quality. Why not look into TrafficLogistics, the priority system? see: http://trafikklogistikk.com

    regards
    Knut

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