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Road Pricing Defined

Vehicle-miles Traveled (VMT) Fees

VMT fees are distance-based fees levied on a vehicle user for use of a roadway system. As opposed to tolls, which are facility specific and not necessarily levied strictly on a per-mile basis, these fees are based on the distance driven on a defined network of roadways. To date, this method of revenue generation has been implemented only for 5,000 volunteer motorists in Oregon beginning July 1, 2015 and for trucks (e.g. in Germany and, on a limited basis, Illinois). It has been previously tested on a pilot basis in Oregon in 2007 (Road User Fee Pilot Project) and 2012 (Road Usage Charge Pilot Project) and, separately, in 12 cities in the U.S. as part of a SAFETEA-LU-authorized National Evaluation of a Mileage-Based Road User Charge study conducted by the University of Iowa.

In a broad sense VMT fees' application is envisioned through the use of an onboard vehicle device to capture the distance driven by a vehicle through GPS or other technology and relate that to a method of charging, which could range from manual cash payment to automatic deduction for a prepaid customer account.

A large number of publications on VMT fees are available throughout the Road Pricing website.

  • Pilot Program Could Help Determine the Viability of Mileage Fees for Certain Vehicles
    (Government Accountability Office) - Federal funding to build and maintain the nation's highways and bridges comes primarily from highway users through federal fuel taxes. These revenues have eroded due to improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency and other factors contributing to shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund. Experts have proposed alternative means of raising revenues by charging drivers fees based on their miles traveled. Several states have tested systems that gather vehicle mileage and location data, which has raised privacy concerns. GAO examined (1) the benefits and challenges of mileage fee initiatives in the United States and other selected nations, (2) mileage fee rates necessary to replace and supplement current Highway Trust Fund revenues and the effect these fees would have on users' costs, and (3) state DOTs' views on future revenue demands and mileage fees. GAO reviewed five domestic pilot projects and programs in Germany, New Zealand, and the Netherlands; modeled mileage fees for passenger vehicles and commercial trucks; and surveyed 51 state DOTs. GAO suggests establishing a pilot program to test the viability of such fees for commercial trucks and electric vehicles. FHWA should update its estimates of road damages imposed by all vehicle types compared with the tax revenues generated by each. The Department of Transportation took no position on GAO's recommendation but provided technical comments which GAO incorporated as appropriate.
  • Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding: A Primer for State and Local Decision Makers
    (Rand Corporation) Over the past several decades, elected officials have grown increasingly wary of increasing motor fuel taxes, resulting in growing shortfalls in funding for surface transportation programs. Transportation funding shortfalls will grow even more acute in the coming years as improved vehicle fuel economy and the adoption of alternative-fuel vehicles reduce federal and state fuel tax revenues by billions of dollars per year. With little prospect for near-term federal action, some state decision makers, and even some local and regional officials, are beginning to explore a transition from taxing fuel to taxing vehicle miles of travel within their own jurisdictions. A system of mileage fees - while challenging to design and implement and more costly to administer - would offer a significantly more stable source of funding in future decades and could support additional policy goals as well. This guide provides a brief introduction to emerging mileage-fee design strategies for reducing system costs and building public support.
  • Road Pricing Study Reports - These technical reports present the results of program or region-specific VMT fee feasibility studies, surveys, or demonstration projects.
  • Mileage-based User Fee Technology Study (RITA) - A preliminary assessment of nine potential implementation packages of mileage-based user fee technology.
  • Alternative Approaches to Funding Highways (Congressional Budget Office) - Examines a broad range of alternatives for federal funding of highways, including VMT fees, and assessing equity, efficiency, and privacy issues.
  • Highway Trust Fund: Pilot Program Could Help Determine Viability of Mileage Fees for Certain Vehicles (Government Accountability Office) - Examines the benefits and challenges of VMT fee initiatives in the U.S. and abroad, mileage fee rates necessary to replace and supplement current Highway Trust Fund revenues, and state DOTs' views on future revenue demands and mileage fees.
  • Vehicle Mileage Fee Primer (Texas) - 2009 Primer providing an overview of VMT fees.
  • Alternatives to the Motor Fuel Tax (Oregon) - Updates a prior National Highway Cooperative Research Program study on alternatives to motor fuel taxes analyzing economic and technological issues related to fuel tax alternatives.
  • Vehicle-Miles-Traveled Revenue Approaches Policy Issue Paper (Wisconsin) - Policy brief examining the issue of replacing Wisconsin's motor fuel tax with a VMT fee, including statutory, policy, and operational challenges, pros and cons of various implementation methods, revenue options using different VMT rates, and equity issues.
  • Guidelines for Shaping Perceptions of Fairness of Transportation Infrastructure Policies: The Case of a Vehicle Mileage Tax (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) - Guidelines based on a study on individuals' perceptions of fairness towards a VMT-based transportation funding policy using the regulatory focus theory, useful in guiding outreach messaging strategies for related policies.
  • Mileage-Based User Fees: Defining a Path toward Implementation (Texas Transportation Institute)
    Phase 1: Identifying a Research Strategy
    Phase 2: An Assessment of Technology Issues
    Phase 2: An Assessment of Institutional Issues
    Reports documenting the activities of a two-phase research effort based on the mileage-based user fee framework supported by the University Transportation Center for Mobility.
  • Proceedings of the 2009 Symposium on Mileage-Based User Fees (Texas Transportation Institute) - Summarizes VMT fee U.S. pilot projects, the federal perspective, and panel discussions on institutional issues, public acceptance, technology, the state and local perspectives, and stakeholder perspectives.
  • A New Approach to Assessing Road User Charges (University of Iowa) - Summarizes early research into assessing road user charges, including smart vehicle technology, privacy, convenience, and ability to include desirable features such as on-board navigation and emergency vehicle location.
  • VMT-Based Fees: Issues and Considerations from a Multi-State Perspective (I-95 Corridor Coalition) - Summary of a brainstorming session on VMT fees to gain input on the appropriate role for the I-95 Corridor Coalition in a multi-state VMT-based fee program or pilot, as well as the scope of a multi-state VMT-based fee case study project.
  • Moving Toward Vehicle Miles of Travel Fees to Replace Fuel Taxes (RAND Corporation) - Provides a short analysis of VMT fee implementation options, assesses technical options as well as technical, institutional, and political challenges, and recommends a comprehensive system trial to resolve uncertainties.
  • Vehicle Miles Traveled Fees: A Trends in America Special Report (Council of State Governments) - Reviews the state of the practice in VMT fee consideration and application through 2009, including: definitions, benefits, pilot projects, international applications to trucks, obstacles to implementation, public acceptance issues, and findings from other research.
  • System Trials to Demonstrate Mileage-Based Road Use Charges (National Cooperative Highway Research Program) - Explores options for scoping and organizing such VMT fee system trials.
  • Implementable Strategies for Shifting to Direct Usage-Based Charges for Transportation Funding (National Cooperative Highway Research Program) - Identifies a range of options that might support the near-term implementation of a national system of VMT fees and evaluates their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  • Discerning the Pathway to Implementation of a National Mileage-Based Charging System (Transportation Research Board) - Develops and proposes concepts for research and demonstration programs to test the technical and political feasibility of road use metering and mileage charging.
  • Costs of Alternative Revenue-Generation Systems (National Cooperative Highway Research Program) Develops a methodology to analyze and compare the administrative, collection, and compliance (enforcement) costs of systems for highway revenue generation and to apply that the methodology to a selected set of usage-based revenue systems: cordon pricing, tolling, VMT fees, motor fuel taxes, and parking.
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