By Larry Dignan
Posting in Energy
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has a faulty business model to fund highways, and the problem will only get worse as efficient electric cars proliferate. Here's why.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has a faulty business model when it comes to funding highways. And the problem will only get worse as electric cars start hitting the road in 2011 and more efficient automobiles proliferate.
Assuming cars like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf---not to mention a bevy of electric vehicles coming after those two automobiles---become successful the Highway Trust Fund is going to have big problems.
The Highway Trust Fund is the source of funding for most of the U.S. government's surface transportation programs. The fund itself gets its money from gas taxes: every time you go to the pump, you pay a federal and state tax. These taxes fund highway maintenance and repair on the federal and state levels.
But here's the problem: fuel taxes have been falling in recent years, and the U.S. has been compensating for the drop by funding the Highway Trust Fund with money from the general coffers.
Why are fuel tax revenue rates falling? For starters, the recession and ensuing economic malaise means folks travel and drive less. The other issue is that cars are just more efficient. If you drive a Toyota Prius, you use less fuel and therefore deliver less tax revenue to the Highway Trust Fund and states. Meanwhile, you drive just as much as you used to.
In the world of Highway Trust Fund revenue, you want everyone driving gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks. There is more revenue in the big fill-ups.
Add it up and the gas tax revenue takes a hit -- meanwhile, you still use the highways a lot.
Now let's carry this forward. Let's assume that most of the population opts for an electric vehicle in five years. Gas tax revenue will tank. Highways need a new revenue source. If you think about it, the U.S. government actually take a double whammy: it subsidizes electric vehicles, then takes another hit in revenues for the Highway Trust Fund.
The highway funding and mileage tax issues surfaced more than a year ago, but quickly went to the back burner. But the issue could resurface as cars like the Leaf and Volt begin to hit the market in 2010 and 2011. If anything, mass production electric cars will accelerate the highway funding problems.
Do we need a mileage tax?
Foreseeing a potential highway funding crunch, a bi-partisan panel recommended last year that the U.S. transition to a mileage tax system by 2020. The idea, pitched in a Feb. 29, 2009 report, was dismissed.
The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (NTPP) concluded:
The current surface transportation funding approach, with its heavy reliance on motor fuel taxes, raises insufficient revenue, is unsustainable at current rates in the long run, and is inconsistent with important national policy goals. The NTPP echoes the Financing Commission’s call for Congress to begin taking immediate steps to develop a more sustainable national revenue mechanism based on the user-pay principle.
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. This would identify and address critical policy questions such as privacy, administrative methods and costs, and the interplay with climate change and other national policy goals, in order to inform Congress as it moves forward. This will require investment in research and technology, including a variety of demonstration programs of mileage-based user fee systems. A research agenda of the nature envisioned would be best overseen by a body within the U.S. Department of Transportation that combines technology, policy, tax administration, and systems expertise.
Here's a graphic from the Congressional Budget Office that tells the tale. And it doesn't seem to include any assumptions for electric vehicles.
This topic emerged after a conversation with Parker Williams, vice president of ACS Transportation Solutions, which is now a part of Xerox. Like IBM and other public sector IT powers, there's a big effort in developing smarter transportation systems -- but there's an unavoidable collision with policy in some areas. Williams and I discussed transportation technologies for everything from accident prevention systems and toll collection to taxes and funding; Williams noted that GPS is considered a key technology to help transition away from the existing U.S. fuel tax system with a usage-based model.
Now there's nothing on the drawing board in the U.S. beyond pilots and studies, but there's a band of academics and researchers studying the mileage tax issue. In April, a powwow of researchers addressed the issue at the University Transportation Center for Mobility at Texas A&M University's Texas Transportation Institute.
And that's a good thing, since it's certain that the government will have to find a new way to fund highways if we all go green.
For ACS' part, Williams said the company is competing to implement projects in the Netherlands and Poland to move to a more usage-based system. In a nutshell: a GPS device in your car would track your mileage and tax you accordingly. It's likely that the government will tax less for low-emission vehicles and more for gas guzzlers.
In a recent presentation, Netherlands officials walked through the lessons learned from its road pricing efforts. Marian Jongman, strategy director for the Road Pricing Project at the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management in The Netherlands, said there were political hurdles as well as a lot of experimentation.
The Netherlands has been trying road pricing since 1988. The system is summarized like this:
After I scoffed a bit at the idea of paying taxes per mileage, Williams noted that ACS just was looking at the technology solutions not being an advocate. You can almost picture the battle over a usage-based transportation tax system now. If you thought Net Neutrality raised a furor, just imagine what a road tax system for driving will do.
Nevertheless, a usage tax is worth further investigation. On paper, a mileage tax makes sense. Why should someone who drives 500 miles per quarter pay as much for highway repairs as the guy who drives 3,000 miles in the same time frame?
Of course, then you think about the unintended consequences. What about the trucks that keep commerce humming? What about the behaviors the government is trying to change? What about the sub-par mass transit systems that are expected to get more usage if people cut back on driving to avoid taxes?
Once you start fiddling with the mileage tax, things get complicated quickly.
Simply put, the mileage tax concept is an issue we all should investigate. Ferrol O. Robinson, a research fellow at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, noted in a presentation that there are a bevy of transition issues to ponder as the U.S. eventually moves from a gas tax to a mileage levy.
Let's roll the slides:
Other transition items to ponder:
- Alternative fuel vehicles would only pay taxes by mileage at first since they aren't paying anything to highway upkeep.
- New vehicles would be equipped with on-board units for a phase-in approach.
- You would distinguish between autos, light trucks and heavy trucks.
- What incentives would be needed to get people into the system? The mileage tax would be mandatory when fuel taxes were phased out.
- How would charges be handed out? You could go with a flat fee or a varied per-mile fee by fuel efficiency, vehicle class, time of day and urban vs. rural driving.
In addition, Robinson flagged a bunch of implementation issues:
Clearly, there's a lot here to think about, even though you're unlikely to hear much about a mileage tax in an election year.
Here's a reading list to ponder the green vs. highway revenue conundrum:
- Presentations from the Mileage-based user fee symposium
- PDF report: Paying Our Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance
- Highway Trust Fund data
- CBO overview of Highway Trust Fund
- Wikipedia on Highway Trust Fund
- Department of Transportation history of the Highway Trust Fund
- Popular Mechanics: Should the U.S. tax mileage or fuel?
Aug 10, 2010
This article and most comments make the assumption that these cars will be used on the interstate. However, where I live, electric cars are currently prohibited by law from traveling on state routes and interstates because of their lack of power and speed. Is there something different about the models referenced in this article that will change that? Also, for all those trashing trucks: Did you know that trucks pay a separate Highway Use Tax based on weight of the vehicle? It's filed annually on Form 2200. And just how do you propose we get our goods to market? Around here the idiots tore up all the train tracks about 15 years ago.
One stupid thing people in Georgia seem to believe is that highways are free, but trains cost money. They think this because the funding is transparent to them, state and federal tax gases that are funneled directly to road builders. It's going to be fun watching them come to the lege, hat in hand, because they just figured out roads cost money.
@ Daryl420 Eh? Here in Alberta (Canada), our cheapest gas in a long time is at .889/Litre. Convert that to an Imperial Gallon, that works out to over $4 per Gallon. In US Gallons, that would equate to $3.37 a gallon, the cheapest gas in Canada, and the lowest it has been in several years. I have no idea where you got your $1.60'ish figure from! You Yanks are paying way less for your gas than we are, and what really ticks a lot of us is that much of that gas comes right out of my back yard! Can you say "Oil Sands"? Where do you think that fuel, including even the raw bitumen is headed -> straight to the US!
While it's true that heavy trucks cause significantly more wear on roads than cars it's also true, at least here in Oregon that studded tires on cars are also a significant cause of road wear.
In North Carolina, all cars are inspected before renewing the registration. There, a plug is connected to the computer and the mileage is recorded. That's the perfect time for an usage tax to be applied... In the database, all the car's information is stored and they could very well be utilized for the taxation. It may not be a welcome expense (I don't know any that are...) but we all agree that users should pay for the infrastructure we have in place. If I drive a light sedan for just about 10k miles an year, I would expect to pay less than somebody who drives a heavy SUV for the same mileage during one year. Motorcycles and cars of some age (classical) could be tax free. Heavy trucks could either be subsided by the federal authorities it we want it or just pay regularly, according to their weight and have that cost rolled over to their products (service of transportation goods) like any business do. We don't need any more technological complication that would require a lot of investments. Let's just use the databases we already have in the state's DMVs and improve the registration procedures to record the due mileage we would have to pay. When buy a new or used car, the former owner would be taxed on whatever was due by the time you bought the vehicle to keep it fair.
Eliminating the taxes and finding a private solution is the only way to go. There is no reason for the government to continue controlling our roadways. He private sector would find cheaper and more efficient ways build roads. Private dollars would fund the R&D. Our roads would become more durable, last longer without repairs and more convenient. As far as how they would get this done privately, there have been many proposed alternatives that don't require drivers to pay in the long term. Government only serves to take your taxes and decide what's best for you. To help with that.
@TAPhilo have you ever looked at a road where the trucks or buses are for whatever reason concentrated to part of the lanes? Near a gravel quarry, at a high traffic 4 way intersection, most of the trucks make a left hand turn to go towards the quarry. The turn lane looked like it was made out of wax, the asphalt had partially shifted out of the ruts and forward because of the trucks braking in the lane. Seeing a truck there, the tires fit the ruts perfectly. Even the painted lines shifted with the asphalt. Eventually this lane was replaced with concrete. Where the trucks actually turned into the plant, the road is always heavily cracked in the lanes used by the trucks. Another location, near my home, a high school opened up in 1993, the school buses are routed to make right turns, so they approach the school from one direction and leave in another direction. You can see their routes by looking at which lanes are cracked more. Yes any changes to the tax need to take into account vehicle weight, and also, cost over time needs to be taken into account in construction, and inspections need to be done during and after construction. Road construction used to be a science, the angle of the road slope, and shape of the profile of the road was planned out for maximum life. Now they can't seem to build a road that drains properly in the first storm, they leave low spots where water puddles.
1. Everybody, even people who don't drive, benefits from highways. Small towns in the mountains pay the same for a soda in a vending machine as people who live next to the bottling plant. Why? because of an awesome highway system. Everybody should pay. 2. I don't need the government knowing how many miles I drive. The "government" may be benevolent, but not all the "people" in it are. They don't need more data about me.
@msd1107 LMAO... yeah that might be true (and i highly doubt it) if, you ONLY calculate the emissions from the gasoline and not all the energy that went into putting that gas in your tank in the first place that AREN'T incurred by electric cars (and on second thought its not even close even before the forthcomming reasons), such as refining the the oil into gasoline and transporting the gasoline to the gas station, thne the energy required to operate the pump. compared to an electric vehicle where the emissions are all calculated by a single upfront number based on the efficency of the energy grid. try calculating the true enviromental cost of gasoline (or deisel) and not just what actualy comes out the tail pipe and while your at it add in the environmental cost of all the catalayic converters as they are solely tied to ICE cars, not EV's... these are just a few of the ways the environmental impacts of gasoline flies under the radar for most people bottom line is even massive coal and oil power plants are even more enviromental friendly than the average ICE when comparing an equivelent about of energy (18-20% average for ICE [most ICE have an absolute maximum efficency of 37% due to the use of steel/iron] and 30-33% average for coal and oil power plants), and moreover they probably always will because cars are typically made to be as cheap as possible (with little regard to the environment) whereas power plants are made to be as efficient per dollar as possible (with little regard to the environment). infact the biggest drawback of electrical power is the fact that the outdated power grid loses at least 10% of all its energy just in transmission alone, the use of superconducting power lines would increase available power WITHOUT even adding a single power plant (this same method can also make electric vehicle more efficent than they already are; though its not yet cost effective.).... also even if you add in that 10% or so energy loss of electric power its STILL about 50% more efficient than the average ICE and a 10% more efficent usage of energy; in the case of oil, of the same energy source at that... and are as such also worse for the environment and for the state of global warming/climate change. and BTW, the long and skinny of this means beyond a shadow of a doubt, even without needing to see your source, your arguement doesn't hold water... not even in principal much less reality... the facts are a fact the efficency of ICE is horrendous even compared to oil and coal power plants which are notoriously inefficent and pollutive... infact heres a fun fact... the efficency of solar power on average is now 20% and goes over 40% meaning solar power is ALREADY more efficent than the engines in our cars, and they don't pollute at all; though i wouldn't recommend solar powered cars just yet..lol also...there wouldn't be a power grid issue at all if the US (and some other countries were dragging their feet on green energy and nuclear power... and moreover if they hadn't been dragging their feet for 50 damn years.
Read annually from the odometer. Payable at time of registration. No exceptions. No exemptions. You car weighs two tons? Two cents per mile. Drive 8,000 miles last year? Pay $160.00. Giant heavy truck? Pay a lot more, but you are doing more damage, anyway. Replace highway tax with carbon tax for gasoline/diesel. Done. Problem solved.
One solution to tax based on usage would be something like the system I encountered in Norway. Gas is taxed quite highly to start with, gas costing about $7/gal and diesel a bit less. But every vehicle has a rfid chip and tolls are charged to the cars "account" without any toll booths at all. As I had rental cars (both diesel, and both getting over 48 mpg!) I got a statement from the rental company so I got to see my usage and cost from point-to-point. Norwegians just have the tolls deducted automatically from their accounts, so it is easy to track your travel expenses. Also, there seems to be a "ring road" around cities with special tolls, which is to encourage not driving into congested areas where there is good public transit. These toll charges could also be customized to, for example, charge less for hybrids and more for Hummers or commercial trucks - all automatically without extra forms and bureaucrats if the system were well designed.
AlanLaRue mentioned that it could be done at the time of annual safety inspection. The problem with this is anyone that drives a car like mine. The odometer, not the speedometer, stopped working when it rolled 266,009 miles. Has not worked in 2 years. Because of the vehicles age the mileage is no longer recorded by the DMV and I have no reason to fix it.
Lost in all this debate is that electric vehicles generate more pollution than an equivalent IC vehicle. Consider, an IC vehicle emits pollution at the SULEV or PZEV level, sometimes less than ambient. AN EV vehicle takes power from the electric grid. The electric generators are a complex and sophisticated business, generating electricity at an optimum combination of low cost, low pollution, and other factors. When an electric vehicle recharges, the electric utility has to supply additional power for this, which comes from the most costly and/or highest polluting generators on line at the time, and the situation just gets worse as more EVs need to get recharged. There is no way to finesse this issue. The logical extreme is when all vehicles are electric. Then there is no gas tax revenue to maintain the highway infrastructure as discussed above. The electricity needed will be highly polluting (more polluting than the energy needed by an IC vehicle fleet) and costly, since all the inexpensive and low polluting electricity is already being used. So we will pay more for energy and be subject to higher levels of pollution. Not a pleasant thought. In addition, in some scenarios, the EV requires more energy than an equivalent IC vehicle. See the down loadable spreadsheet and its help text at http://bit.ly/b5xI64 to play with these scenarios.
first of all electric vehicles can be charged at home FOR FREE (solar/wind)... hence no cost in fuel at all hence, no tax. highways and all roads should be atleast partly funded by general taxes, and once the majority of private and public vehicles (namely mass transit) in use it the "fuel tax" on electric could be applied directly to the elctric companies themselve. and a tax on tires to pay for roads isn't a bad idea either (for the guy that mentioned it) also some other points... 1. deisel is (almost) always taxed less than gasoline, despite its vehicle do more road damage, AND more environmental damage (which given our increasing knowledge of global warming/climate change should be major factor in the fuel tax... or a seperate tax all together; pollution/carbon tax on fuel)... the US is an exception. 2. one of the purposes of the fuel tax was to reduce pollution by reducing consumption; the same as the tobacco tax. 3. the fuel tax also had the purpose of making other engery sources economically viable INCLUDING electric battery driven vehicles, hence tax them to be the same as gasoline completely contradicts this purpose of the fuel tax. 4. the US pay LESS fuel tax than most countries ( so quit whining), in canada it can be anywhere from $0.612 (61.2 cents) to $1.153 per US gallon, in the UK its about $2.50 per US gallon, ui nthe netherlands its about $3.50 per gallon (more than a US gallon costs in the US AFTER taxes)... INFACT... americans pay less per GALLON, than most developed countries citizens pay per LITRE... so seriously quit whining.... complaining about taxes shouldn't be considered a national pass time... esspecially since on virtually every level of taxation your taxed less for everything.
The problem with mileage taxes is that they charge everybody the same rate -- which is wrong. Heavier vehicles cause more road wear than small lightweight ones, put more pollution in the air, and use more irreplaceable oil -- and thus SHOULD pay more to use the roads. The fuel tax already puts the right incentives in place; the problem is not with the nature of the tax, it's that the rate is much too low. Eventually we will also need to tax alternative fuel cars on an equitable basis, but that time is not yet. At present, jumpstarting the growth of electric cars is a sufficiently important social goal that it is reasonable to subsidize them by not having them pay a fair share of road use taxes. In another five years it may be time to reconsider.
we all forget the over all pros and cons. with electric what happens when electric and water is lost in a area. are all cars to be at levels or what ???
Very simple. Electric cars need electricity to charge. Use a car charger that connects to the car and house (or where ever) with a sealed data collector devise. When you connect it to the car it also connects to the odometer picking up just how many miles the vehicle traveled since the last batter charge. To clear the charger connector one must connect it to one's computer which relays the data to a data bank on the internet keeping track of all electric cars and the milage traveled year-to-date. The connector use to connect to the computer would be a simple serial, paralell or the new port connection which I can't remember the name of.
Here is the Midwest, and especially in and around the Chicago, IL area there is so much shoddy construction, graft and just plain waste the money is essentially stolen; without national construction road building standards, vetting on contractors, and the effective overview of funding award processes you get what we have here. Compared to other countries like Canada and Germany, for example (sections of the original autobahn in Germany from the 1930s are still driven on -- albeit with continuing maintenance -- there isn't adequate subbase installed in US highways, effective drainage, or spot-on testing of obviously adulterated and watered down roadbed materials, apparently not since the original US defense highway initiatives (?). I can't believe, hard winters or not, highways cannot be built better than to need major reconstruction every 3-5 years; the only logical explanation seems to be the politicization and exploitation of a civil engineering process. No system of mileage tax, fuel tax, or some combined or hybrid system will be effective without oversight and ethical as well as engineering reform.
Road wear scam. The real big cost of roads is designing for 108,000 pound tractor traailer rigs to use the road / bridges is in the initial building of the road so that the weight will not crack the road surface. Once that is done, all the road ruts you see is caused by CARS wearing down the road surface by sheer numbers using the roads - big rigs are blamed for it - but the volumn of cars is what makes the road wear out. Simple test - measure the center of a rut to a center of a rut on any highway you and you will find that it matches the average wheel axel space on cars - tractor trailers have a much wider axel between wheels and there are no ruts spaced at that distance. Put it this way: if 30,000 cars drive a highway and 1,000 tractor trailers (even with 10 wheels) which will cause more physical wear? The cars will since 120,000 tires wear the road verus 10,000 truck tires. If they wanted to lower the cost of road maintenance via ruts then all they would have to do is build the inital road 1" deeper of concrete and then every 20 years grind down 1/4 inch of the high points and the road is good for 100 years before being replaced - but they don't perform this simple solution and state that the whole road must be rebuilt or just paved over with ashphalt every 8 to 10 years - being paid for with 20 year bonds!
You don't really think the won't be able to find a new way to suck money out of us do you? They could just tack on an equivalent fuel tax onto your registration fee.
Given the incredible amounts of waste, graft and just poor construction in road building and rebuilding and rebuilding in the Midwest centered around Chicago and the ''collar counties'' compared to other countries, e.g. Canada, Germany (where cars are still using the original Autobahn, with maintenance, from the 1930) and elsewhere I believe the majority of these funds have been misused; frankly until there are some national standards for construction and maintenance I don't support any funding that is wasted, stolen, and lost by local and state funding highway construction fraud.
@colecrew: Part of the reason that European vehicles get such better mileage that ours do is emission standards which require technologies we require that impose a penalty hit on performance. The air in many European cities is unbreathable compared to ours. It's the trade-off the tolerate. Privacy issues: I think there is an expectation that future generations will have a far different attitude regarding privacy than the current ones do. Today's under 30 set already blithely transmits the most private details of their lives via social media. If you don't care if people see you unconscious in a puddle of your own vomit at a party, why should you care if the government is tracking your whereabouts? The great thing about the existing fuel tax paradigm is that it is as "honest" a mechanism as we're likely to ever have. It closely taxes people based upon usage (miles driven) and weight (damage to roads). The biggest fear I have about any of the suggested alternatives will be politicians ability and desire to use the system to reward and punish consumers as they see fit. Special interests will buy favors as they do elsewhere in our tax system, and protected demographics will get favors. It will be used as another redistributionist mechanism, and the middle class will be made to suffer.
The CBO graph tells a story, but I see a different one than the one discussed. In the 2016-2018 the outlays exceed the revenues by less than $10B each year, but the balance drops by more than $20B - which is to say the trust fund has a leak. It is possiblethat the difference is interest expense for funding the balance deficit. But elsewhere the story is that the shortfall is being funded from general revenues, not borrowing. As regards a mileage tax, there is a real difference inthe cost to our society between a Smart Car and a sixteen wheeler going the same mileage. But the difference in fuel usage is just part of the total picture. An electric version of a big rig is still going to weigh more than a Volt and is going to create more congestion(more lanes) in heavily traveled areas, and ... On the other side, the sixteen wheeler is probably engaged in generating economic value, while the Volt may be just joy-riding, or it may be gereating far more economic value than a load of junk car parts - depends on the circumstances. A usage tax needs to be based on the realistic impact of the usage, not just something that is easy to measure. That has been the problem with gallonage taxes that hit the poor guy going to his minimum wage job who can't afford a hybrid SUV. We need to make the taxes fairer, not easier to calculate.
This is a bit nit-picky, but 2009 is not a leap year. How could there be a February 29, 2009 report?
IF - and I emphasize - IF mileage taxing comes about, what a great problem to have to deal with! To reduce our dependence on oil, it is definitely worth working out the bugs on a mileage tax as well as getting mass transit working the way it should. However, God forbid that we in the US of A should listen to any other country who might have already invented, or may at least be inventing, the wheel. Good luck to us all.
IF - and I emphasize - IF mileage taxing comes about, what a great problem to have to deal with! To reduce our dependence on oil, it is definitely worth working out the bugs on a mileage tax as well as getting mass transit working the way it should. However, God forbid that we in the US of A should listen to any other country who might have already invented, or may at least be inventing, the wheel.
We should never develop a system to track our every move. The credit card companies already do enough of that. What a fantastic target for privacy invasion!!!
The need for maintenance of roads is caused by weight. All the Priuses in the world could drive all over the world and not cause the damage that a heavy tractor trailer rig causes. In a free market, these costs make their way into the cost of products. The consumer pays the price, regardless. Of course, that would assume we have a free market. We have anything but a free market convoluted by a Byzantine maze of federal and state taxes which, naturally, are different in every state.
Great list of posts. I read them all. No one has figured out the big coming scam: "Smart Grid" plus "Electric Vehicles" = the ability of the Federal Gov't. to control WHO Drives WHERE - WHEN (IF). This is all a big scam - just as those of you who pointed out that EV's are an energy scam, just pushing the problem farther out of sight, while appearing to fix the problem. (A favorite Federal Game by the way....) No - EV's aren't the answer. No - you'll never get me on the "Smart Grid". No, the Fed's or the State CAN'T control my home thermostat. Our politicians have stolen the highway funds are "re-purposed" them - just like they have social security, education funds, and any other fund they can lay their hands on. Our American Heritage - Our infrastructure is crumbling because they "re-purpose" the maintenance funds and ransom our future. Don't fall for the scam, and don't buy into the feel-good, guilt laden Green story. Its all a "redistribution" hoax. I'm opting out, thank you.
There is an easy solution to this tax problem and every other one for that matter. The Fair Tax Initiative. Do away with the IRS and its horribly inefficient and unfair way of collecting taxes and enact a single consumption tax at the federal, state and local level. Everyone pays the same tax rate on everything they buy. Including illegal aliens (who get payed under the table now so no current tax revenue from them), drug dealers( same situation), corporations (generally pay little or no tax at all right now), and the rich who know how to manipulate the system into paying little or no taxes to the IRS. The increase in revenue will alleviate problems like the one discussed above and the collection system will make the tax revenue base transparent enough to eliminate much of the corruption and waste created in the current system. Search for the fairtax and you will find the answer to a lot of the problems in this country.
Many , many different issues that effect the amount of maintenance and original cost of a given road. - yep.. loads have a big effect (truck vs car) also - weather - salt usage - soil stability - technology available at the time of road's construction. - willingness to build for longer life vs cost. so .. Are we going to expect those that live in locations with roads that are cheaper to make and maintain .. to subsidize those who live in areas that have expensive roads? This is a complex issue with many social expectations. As stated in the article.. the present system doesn't cover the costs now.. it doesn't take a bunch of electric / hybrid cars to break the system.. it is already broke. Review the expected costs to fix the present infrastructure (roads / bridges/ tunnels) in the US... it is staggering... and being ignored.
This entire situation would be funny if it weren't pathetic. Why? How come almost every solution to almost every "societal" problem (or things some people perceive to be a "societal" problems) almost always entails a government solution based on taxing something? You want to find creative answers to "societal" problems? Figure out ways to solve them that don't entail adding to your fellow citizens' financial burdens. In fact, why don't the geniuses that always come up with these "solutions" develop solutions that will lighten their fellow citizens financial tax burdens? But that's hard to do, isn't it? And any such solutions would probably be detrimental to the government by lowering tax revenue... not to mention being terribly unPC. BTW, mileage tax solutions won't work any better at making up for shortfalls than current gas taxes do. When people travel less there is less tax revenue generated either way. I guess the solution to that problem is to tax people for staying home.
I don't see how this is any kind of problem for the next 10 years (at least). Reason: We WANT to encourage people to drive EVs, hybrids, and fuel-efficient ICEs and to use public transportation! (Don't we? Am I stupid? Isn't that the policy?) Solution to funding: Raise the gas tax. That way, the "good" drivers don't pay the gas tax, and the "bad" drivers pay an ever-increasing penalty. OK, I agree that EVENTUALLY this will get untenable, but that's a LONG way off. The long-term solution is to tax carbon emissions at their ultimate source. For gasoline, that means at the refinery. For electricity, that means at the power plant. For chemicals (including fertilizers), at the chemical plant. For minerals, at the mine and/or smelter. And so on. Everyone else downline pays the carbon tax indirectly, based upon their lifestyle and how efficiently they use anything that contributes to carbon emissions. As people/businesses get better at not emitting carbon, gov't can gradually ramp up the carbon tax to maintain revenues. This in turn puts more pressure to be efficient. Problem solved.
Instead of tying this project to a single revenue stream, it should come out of general allocation. It should be easier for us as citizens to determine our actual tax rate rather than getting nickeled and dimed to death so that economists are necessary to tell us how much we're paying in taxes each year. Furthermore, EVERYONE gets back from the interstate system in both economic and security dividends. Everyone should pay in. The damage done by the cars relative to the damage done by the trucks is insignificant and already unfairly represented by the gas tax anyway. Finally, the corruption in the federal highway system is absurd. Less revenue should be going in there until it's cleaned up anyway. I think they must have rebuilt I-80 through Nevada every single year for two decades. Must be nice to have a senator with so much seniority.
While it sounds enticing, a mileage tax will only complicate our lives and compromise our privacy. There is no good reason to further complicate our lives and especially to invade our privacy further. And I'm no right winger -- just a political moderate who happens to be a professional city planner who tries to look at the big picture (which few elected officials bother to do these days, if ever). The lost tax revenues from gas taxes can be more simply replaced by shifting some of the gas tax that funds the Highway Trust Fund to a new electricity tax to fund the Highway Trust Fund. Or just use some of the general revenue for the Highway Trust Fund. Or better yet, let's shift transportation spending more towards mass transit. Even in the Chicago suburbs, public opinion has shifted toward more funding for mass transit (see Chicago Tribune random-sample survey the published the week of Aug. 1, 2010). Urban planners have long known that mass transit saves taxpayers money by reducing wear and tear on roads, reducing demand for gas (depressing the cost of gas), and reducing deadly air pollution. Or better yet, let's end the exclusionary zoning and housing practices of the suburbs where the jobs have gone, but housing for households with modest incomes are systematically excluded. And let's end the continuing racial discrimination in housing that keeps so many suburbs lilly white, excluding Hispanics and African Americans who can afford the housing. For example, since 1980 wealthy Naperville, IL, would have been about 12 percent Black if there was no racial discrimination in housing. But in 1980 it was just 0.3% and by 2000 it was 3.4%. The proportion of Hispanics in Naperville is similarly depressed from what it would be in a genuinely free housing market not distorted by racial discrimination. Sadly this is the situation in every region of the nation and Americans collectively lack the will to bring an end to racial discrimination in housing and exclusion of households of modest incomes from where the jobs are. The result has been massive commuting -- which costs us in terms in wear and tear on the roads (and frequent costly highway reconstruction) -- leading to higher taxes --, pollution, inflating demand for gasoline (and thereby raising the cost of gas), and excluding the children of households with modest incomes from the better funded public schools and their higher quality of education (and is not education the pathway to a more prosperous life?). But with the Republican/T Party actively opposing enforcement of fair housing laws and their federal judges eviscerating fair housing and civil rights law -- that day is far away.
First, it's the method of funding repair that causes the problem, not the vehicles. Second, highways should be bid for constructioon AND maintenance to prevent shoddy costruction, Most importantly GET FREIGHT OFF OF THE HIGHWAYS! Cars don't damage highways, trucks do, the overwhelming majority of damage to roadways si from heavy freight--which isn't taxed to pay more than a small part of the expenses of maintenance.
@colecrew The UK gallon is also larger than the US. US gallon = 3.785 liters UK Gallon = 4.546 liters Big difference when you look at comparing MPG. What was said earlier as well about safety. US cars are quite heavy due to all the safety items and the need to make them crash worthy whereas the Euro cars are much lighter due to not requiring that stuff. I believe the europeans concentrate on developing driver education and accident avoidance unlike the USA trend to just give out licenses willynilly and wrap the people in bubble wrap.
Actually, we should tax sunshine, let the wealthy be exempt, and let the middle class pay. This seems to be how everything else gets paid for.
If you had bothered to investigate things, you'd know that those big trucks, along with ANY Commercial of any size already pay mileage taxes along with Fuel Taxes, to both the Feds AND the states, via the IFTA (Interstate Fuel Tax Agreement), HUT(Highway Use Tax), etc. N addition, Most states require Trucks and Trailers to be outfitted with Commercial vehicle or Trailer Plates, which amount to an additional Tax in addition to the Registration costs (TAX). The Commercial Vehicles out there ARE paying more than their fair share, currently. So maybe it's time the Civilians pay their share as well, and then they'll pay more attention to what Washington is doing with their taxes . . .
gasoline vehicles would be exempt because they are already paying taxes for the road. cat. one small cars cat 2 mid size cars cat 3 large cars small trucks small suvs cat 4 full size trucks full sized suvs cat 5 small commercial trucks cat 6 full semis.
ton mile tax has been the standard for heavy trucks for years so the knowledge of what it takes to work right, avoid fiddles, etc. is well developed.
Carbon tax alone won't put the money into the highway fund pool. Worse yet. governors like Arnold in California, can play accounting games and move all of the highway funds into the general fund to help balance the budget. This move makes any concern over EVs a non-issue. But if we want EV's to pay for highway repairs, etc. a simple highway use fee can be assigned to their vehicle registration fees in close approximation to let's say 30 MPG and 12,000/miles year would generate from current fuel taxes. This could be indexed on an annual basis.
The US has 4% of the world population and 40% of the pollution - stop whining and start getting your act together - these problems have been dealt with in other countries for many years - so get moving - we need your action to solve this problem. The major obstacle - or excuse -is not technology but the state of mind that you cannot learn from Brazil, Canada or other countries on this particular issue
Everybody change to electric cars in 5 years? Not gonna happen. Vehicles that get 40 miles per charge and cost $32,000 are not going to take over anything.
Replace gas taxes and as much of income taxes as possible with a carbon tax and be done with the whole mess of details. Even though global warming is just a conspiracy by the round-earthers, it would be better to tax carbon than labor: right now our tax structure presses companies to shift their production inputs from labor=jobs to resources=OPEC, we want it the other way.
GPS is not a viable solution by itself. It would have to be accompanied by a physical odometer reading. What about when a GPS has signal disruption? Taxes can't be collected if the GPS doesn't have a good signal? Also there will be people that will find ways to disable the GPS thus stopping tax collection. Unless you have a back up to the GPS it will quickly become less useful than needed. I like the ideas of a once a year odometer reading. Most DMV's should already have the computer systems in place to track all actively registered cars. Owners as designated times will simply have to drive through a check point, provide their registration and have the odometer read. A very quick event. The DMV can then confirm the car has been verified and send the previous and current odometer reading to the tax collection agency for invoicing. This process can be totally separate from normal registration so it can remain online where available. Lastly, if a registered vehicle does not report during its designated time then a punishment system has to kick in. Perhaps it starts with a warning providing a new cutoff date. Then it moves to fines added to the taxable mileage and 3rd cutoff date. After that the vehicle's registration is cancelled. Or at least something like that. One last point. Electric cars are not the answer. They will only push the problem elsewhere. For one, our electric grids already strain to keep up in many areas. Adding the heavy electrical use needed for fast car charging will only make this worse. Second, most of the country still uses a fossil fuel to generate electricity. So to a certain degree we are only shifting from one fossil fuel to another.
Read the Roadway and Road Vehicle Changes section of Current System Changes found in the book 'True Freedom - The Road to the First Real Democracy' found at www.truefreedom.tv if you would like to learn how the roadways of the future will both be financed and controlled only by those who use them.
There would have to be an equitable way of assigning them to all vehicle types and a cheap and effective way of collecting them. I'll bet there are a huge number of non-commercial diesel vehicles on the road that are not up-to-date with their RUC... http://www.kensium.com/