Mileage Tax Gets Boost From Peters, Mineta Institute
Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation under George W. Bush, Mary Peters recently told the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Growth Summit that the country needs to move toward a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax to replace the failing gas tax. At the same time, a new survey conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University shows drivers warming to a mileage tax if lower emission vehicles get discounted rates. At issue is how to pay for maintenance and expansion of roads and transit systems after 40 years of vast growth in system use, and looking toward a tricky double-whammy. More population and jobs in coming decades will strain metro-region surface transportation systems, while flattening per-capita miles driven and greater fuel efficiency are curtailing growth in the per-gallon gas tax revenues that have traditionally been the prime source for surface transportation funding.
Broad implementation of the mileage tax is at least 10 years off, maybe 15. In the nearer term, variable-rate, electronically tolled express lanes are needed aside free lanes on major metro region highways, along with expanded opportunities for public private partnerships and other local and regional funding tools. Eventually, the mileage tax could be levied for travel on arterial and feeder roads, plus highways, with discounts for less congested routes, and possibly, lower emission vehicles. Incentives such as pay-per mile car insurance and meter-less, ticket-less parking could help compensate for privacy concerns. With a slew of VMT pilot projects, technical studies and surveys completed and more underway or coming, this bold policy initiative continues to gain momentum. Here’s the San Antonio Express-News on Peter’s remarks: