As of September 1, 2012, the University Transportation Center for Mobility (UTCM) is no longer an active center of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The archived UTCM website remains available here.



PDF document - For best results, view PDF files with the most recent version of Adobe Reader Download this chapter [PDF, 451K, 5 pages]

PDF document - For best results, view PDF files with the most recent version of Adobe Reader Download the full proceedings [PDF, 808K, 38 pages]

U.S. Deployment Approaches Panel

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MARK MURIELLO, Moderator (Bio)
New York/New Jersey Port Authority

JIM WHITTY, Panelist (Bio)
Oregon Department of Transportation

DICK MUDGE, Panelist (Bio)
Delcan Corporation

RAY STARR, Panelist (Bio)
Minnesota Department of Transportation

Federal Highway Administration

Jim Whitty

POWERPOINT: Deployment of Mileage Charging Systems in the United States

Instead of once again talking about the history of the Oregon program I would instead like to answer my own questions related to policy and structural issues surrounding a national mileage-based charging system.

I am a "big tent guy" when it comes to the purpose of a MBUF system. MBUF should not only serve as a revenue source but also be used to manage congestion and encourage the operation of fuel efficient vehicles. Neglecting environmental policy goals could remove political support. The system should cover all motorists and all public roads and mileage. Driver privacy should be protected based on motorist choice. The system should have a local option with states, counties, and cities being able to opt into the system. The rate structure should not be flat and should accommodate the move to fuel efficient vehicles. The system should be operated as a public-private partnership.

There are many public concerns regarding a move to MBUF. Focus groups from different states have confirmed the same basic concerns. The public is concerned with system efficiency and fairness. This can be addressed through the operation of an efficient, fair, cost-efficient public private partnership. Privacy and fear of technology is another area of public concern. This can be addressed through giving motorists choice in the level of privacy and type of on-vehicle device used to record mileage. Contrary to what some believe, I do not believe that the default should be manual reporting.

There are several structural issues that also need to be addressed. Concern over the ease of motorist use can be alleviated through choice of on-vehicle technology and invoice and payment method. Crediting the gas tax can be done through a precise credit or estimated credit. Other administrative issues can be mitigated through the operation of a public private partnership.

There are several things still left to learn. I believe that GPS and cellular can operate together, but what needs to be researched is whether it would be wise to allow both to operate in the same system. Effective enforcement is the critical research area in this area. Currently we do not know how to enforce a mileage-based system. In Europe they use a lot of monitoring devices. However this assumes that there is a mandate for all motorists to have a device in their vehicle. In the U.S. we are likely to have a partial application. Will the choice of an on-vehicle device placate motorist’s fears? I believe that it will. The private sector role, interoperability standards, costs, and the nature of early deployments are additional areas that need to be further investigated.

Here is a brief overview of the Oregon weight-distance tax: The trucking industry keeps records on truck combination, number of axles, and odometer readings. They are obligated to complete a mileage report,calculate their payment, and then send payment. A comparison of data from ODOT and Qualcomm showed that GPS coordinates were matched very closely with the biggest deviation being 0.05%.

Q. Is there going to be a flat rate for electric vehicles and what technology will be required in those vehicles?

Whitty answers: All of that is unknown. A road user fee task force will work on these questions.

[ Top ]

Dick Mudge

POWERPOINT: U.S. Deployment Approaches: Truck Fees

The financial system is badly broken which is good news for the VMT industry. I am concerned that we are trying to do too much with VMT fees and that if we get too carried away it will be something that only academics talk about and will not be implemented. There is a need to keep things simple which is why I have focused on trucks.

Many trucks already have the technology necessary and privacy is not as significant of an issue as owners have the right to know where there trucks are located. Delcan’s New York VMT study is not like European systems. European systems have high collection costs. Delcan is working with a small number of companies for added depth.

The proposed fee structure was an average fee for all miles and variable fees for thruways. There is no substitute for tolls, limited access roads, primary roads, local, and an off-peak discount. Private sector folks love the idea of charging differential rates by class of road. However, the trucking industry wants simplicity and is resistant. Phase II could potentially use real money. This would focus participant companies on how they would actually change their operations.

Truckers are wondering why a system would be revenue neutral, as the case has been made that we need more money. I can imagine a system that is not revenue neutral but a portion of excess money is spent on areas that have specific truck related issues.

Q. We talk about trucks being part of this system, but I wonder if anything is being studied in terms of buses. What are the benefits of truck pricing versus bus pricing?

Mudge answers: The reason to focus on trucks is that a lot of the mid to large companies already have the equipment which drives down capital costs. There is also less of a privacy issue.

Q. Switzerland and New Zealand charge buses. It is actually quite easy. I have a comment on the German system: I’ve studied it and the administrative cost is about 6% of revenue, so initially it was quite expensive but in the long term costs have been a lot lower.

Mudge answers: I got my numbers (11%) from someone at a conference. I think you need to keep costs here in the US at around1- 3%.

[ Top ]

Ray Starr

POWERPOINT: IntelliDrive(sm) for Safety, Mobility and User Fees

I am going to discuss a pilot project in the works for Minnesota to demonstrate technologies that will allow for the future replacement of the gas tax with a fuel-neutral mileage charge. What is unique about the study is that we are basing it on consumer-based devices that consumers can go out and purchase. The project will have manual odometer readings because during a transition you are going to have a lot of vehicles that are not equipped.

The pilot plans to use 500 vehicles. The vendor will determine how miles are measured. I anticipate using a "congestion zone" in the metropolitan area. Only categorized miles are transmitted due to privacy concerns but detail is kept at the discretion of the driver. Billing will be done monthly with options to pay by cash, check, or credit card. The current rate should be displayed so drivers know what they are paying to drive on a road. The vendor has proposed using a TomTom unit which will provide the GPS. A cellular device would be the communication method.

Some general comments regarding transportation finance: I believe it is unthinkable to eliminate the gas tax. Not taxing gas would be like not taxing tobacco. Furthermore, the gas tax favors those with fuel efficient vehicles. Furthermore, the gas tax is easy and inexpensive to collect.

Q. There was a concern about VMT fees replacing or supplementing the fuel tax. Can you comment on the benefits of supplementing versus replacing?

Whitty answers: In Oregon it is easier to replace due to public acceptance. But there is also an environmental perspective so rates would need to be structured for the MBUF to do something similar. I think it boils down to what you can sell politically.

Mudge answers: I agree with Whitty’s comments and think that tacking this on the ton tax in NY would not have generated much support.

Starr answers: There are shortfalls in the highway trust fund and the gas tax could compliment a mileage-based user fee.

Q. There was a quote from a Minnesota legislator who said they would never vote for a MBUF system because they did not want to see mileage data in divorce court. My question is what you researchers are doing to protect the privacy of your participants and how are you insuring that revenue goals are not overriding privacy?

Whitty answers: There are a lot of privacy protection measures. The unit employed in Oregon did all calculations on-board and transmitted only charges. Motorist’s choice of the device is the key to gaining acceptance. Some motorists do want more detail for auditing purposes.

Greenberg answers: If data is subpoenaed it has to be provided. It is not frequent but it does happen.

Mudge answers: The data is very valuable and I know there are ways to protect it. I don’t think the data should go directly to the government. In our project we are getting very detailed data but only summary data will go into the reports.

Q. I have been involved in international applications of this and they all failed because there was no clear objective as to what to do with the money. I agree that revenue neutrality is not practical. Would you agree with the principle that money generated under MBUF go to the owner of the road?

Mudge answers: I think revenues should go for transportation services, but I am not sure about revenue going to the "owner" of the road. In NY it may amount to subsidies. Revenues should stay in the mode with flexibility for spending within that mode.

Starr answers: Revenues would go into the existing pot and then formulas would be used to determine where it goes from there.

Q. In looking at large demonstration projects for the replacement of the fuel tax would states need enabling legislation?

Whitty and Greenberg answer: Yes.

Whitty answers: We are seeing positive developments nationally for these discussions. Legislators are finally talking about the issue.

Q. Have there been discussions on the legal side about doing things in terms of policy that would put people at ease in terms of data privacy?

Whitty answers: There could be some sort of standards for privacy, but no steps have been taken.

Frank Douma (Assistant Director of the State and Local Policy Program and Attorney): I have been looking at privacy from a legal perspective. The data is created and from there an issue arises. The policy question is different from the legal question. If data can be kept anonymous there is not a problem. If the data is not anonymous then you need to have an opt-in system and people need to be aware of the implications of opting-in. Opt-in will probably alleviate a lot of these concerns.

[ Top ]