By on October 28, 2009

(courtesy terrapass.com)

Officials are looking to convince residents in the Washington, DC metropolitan region that converting even local streets into toll roads would be good for them. The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board last Wednesday voted to seek federal gas tax funds to bankroll a $400,000 study on how best to sell the public on a controversial per-mile tax proposal that would raise up to $4.8 billion in new revenue.

“A comprehensive road-use pricing initiative in the Washington metropolitan area would be an extremely ambitious experiment,” Brookings Institution authors Benjamin K. Orr and Alice M. Rivlin explained in a policy paper designed to garner the interest of regional authorities. “Leadership and upfront investment from the federal government would also be essential to get the experiment off the ground and ensure comprehensive implementation. Some recent indications of interest at the federal level suggest that this might be possible. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has recently stated that, due to the failure of the Manhattan congestion pricing initiative, the US Department of Transportation still has funds available for pilot congestion pricing programs.”

Brookings, a left-wing think tank, will complete the study entitled, “Public Acceptability of Regional Road Pricing: Can it be Designed to Garner Public Support?” by December 2010, presuming the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approves the request. The funds will pay for a series of telephone surveys and focus groups with residents and special interest groups with an eye to determining how best to package ideas that have generated significant public opposition when proposed in other areas around the world.

In the UK, for example, 1.8 million residents signed an official Downing Street petition urging the prime minister to scrap plans to implement a GPS-based mileage tax. In Manchester, 79 percent voted against congestion charging in a referendum last year as 74 percent of voters did in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2005. The proposed Washington toll system raises many of the privacy concerns identified by UK opponents of congestion charging.

“Vehicles would be fitted with a GPS transponder device similar to an E-ZPass, perhaps as part of the registration process,” Orr and Rivlin explained. “This device would record the type of vehicle, the distance traveled, and the time and location of travel.”

Despite the privacy issues, DC officials insist that tolling is necessary for making up for the shortfall in gasoline tax revenues. The proposed mileage tax would solve this problem by increasing motorist taxation levels by a factor of ten. The additional revenue would be diverted to spending on buses and rail service.

“State gas taxes raise approximately $420 million in the Washington urbanized area every year,” Orr and Rivlin wrote. “Revenues from the road-use pricing scheme described above would be between $2.96 billion and $4.79 billion, depending on the average fee… Net revenues could be split between improving mass transit (particularly buses), a need-based refund or discount, and roadway maintenance.”

The federal and state excise tax is only one component of money raised from motorists in the DC and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Other taxes imposed on motorists include Virginia’s personal property tax on automobiles, vehicle licensing and registration fees, a tax on car insurance, special taxes on commercial vehicles, as well as parking and speeding tickets. The total of all motorist-related taxes in Virginia exceeds the amount spent on road building and maintenance in the state, according to TheNewspaper’s analysis.

Copies of the tolling resolution and Brookings report are available in a 600k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Approval of Submission of a Value Pricing Grant Proposal (Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 10/21/2009)

[courtesy of thenewspaper.com]

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24 Comments on “Feds Study $4.8 Billion Mileage Tax...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    This is rich. DC residents have tags that say Taxation without Representation, now they can also have tags that say “Enjoy the Road? I’m paying by the mile for it”

    Out of the area drivers would love the road improvements without the costs. Of course this would be expanded nationwide.

    What to do with all that driving data gleaned from GPS? Any ideas?

  • avatar
    jmo

    DC officials insist that tolling is necessary for making up for the shortfall in gasoline tax revenues.

    Then increase the gas tax – isn’t that a much easier way of doing it?

    I certainly hope they don’t plan on taxing Tahoes the same as Fits.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    The problem with any tax increase (or new tax) is that it’s never enough. Let’s say they charge a penny a mile for the first year. Just as with sales tax, in a couple of years it will be two cents per mile, then three cents, then all of a sudden seven and a quarter cents per mile. And with each increase we’ll be told that this will solve all our road financial problems. Right… until next time!

  • avatar
    autonut

    What I don’t understand why they need road tax in DC? For crying out loud, DC gets money just like GM by asking the congress and senate. Those bastards (congressmen and senators) all live there, they don’t mind to shell for the city, it is not their money!

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Just yet another stupid Band-Aid tax to cover up the real problems of todays society.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I’m just going to find a way to make you guys all pay for my road use.

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    They still subsidize chinchilla farmers, don’t they? And they subsidize other farmers to not grow corn. Or to not grow peas.

    Hey, maybe we should pay politicians to stay home and fish…

  • avatar
    bwell

    Of course, members of Congress and their staffs would be exempt.

    I remember when the “left wing” was in favor of individual liberty and suspicious of any governmental monitoring of citizens. That seems like a long time ago.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    As a DC road user and Northern VA resident (love that car tax), this troubles me. DC roads are unquestionably in terrible shape (23rd street between Constitution Ave. and C St. could be used for off-road testing by Range Rover and Jeep – stop by and visit us sometime America!). But a government issued spying device, er, GPS, is not the solution for raising the funds to fix the situation.

  • avatar

    jmo: “Then increase the gas tax – isn’t that a much easier way of doing it? ”

    Rather naive/optimistic.

    What do you think what governments in Europe do, where they already have high gas taxes (in addition to the complete payload bag from VAT to insurance taxes)?

    Considering pay per drive schemes, of course, combined with converting open autobahns (already paid for by the tax payer) into privately operated toll roads. They will never get enough…

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Given the lack of coordination over the years between the jurisdictions of DC, Virginia and Maryland over many traffic matters, I’m skeptical they can make this work very well. DC and MD might sign on eventually.

    But at least from the Virginia perspective here, most of the taxing/road improvement decisions are made in Richmond, certainly not in the Virginia DC suburbs. And most of the rest of the state (perhaps Hampton Roads excepted, since they share many traffic woes of the type seen in Northern VA) doesn’t care a whit about NoVA’s traffic issues, nor have they allowed the DC suburbs much flexibility to even self-tax to fix problems. Classic Up-state, Down-State sort of thing, I guess.

    Plus, if the trends seen in the polls bear out, next week’s election in the state will see a GOP Governor with an Attorney General that has as his platform a desire to challenge the Feds on any laws he doesn’t like (States’ Rights, anyone?), and I could bet that they’d try to invoke old tyme Virginny “Massive Resistance” to this idea.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    The problem with raising the gas tax is that it’s only effective if raised at the Fed level. If a locality tries to bump it up for local road use, drivers head further out where the tax is lower. And while a higher Fed tax makes sense for many reasons, the money doesn’t help with local roads.

    I’m not opposed to a per mile usage tax if the money is dedicated to road maintenance, but the data abuse potential is very troubling. I don’t think that any usage monitoring (including my existing toll transponder) should be accessable to anyone, including law enforcement, without a court order, and logging must be done to track who accesses tha data. Without that kind of privacy protection, no road use tracking should be allowed. My wife’s uncle, a criminal attorney, refuses to have any of these devices in his car or on his person.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    Politicians, as usual, do not have the guts to impose even a 5 sent tax on gas, so they find this litiful gimmick instead, that requires a whole new bureaucracy to collect it.

    Both stupid and disgraceful.

    What else do you expect of the US Congress?

  • avatar
    mtypex

    How does the VA car tax work? I see all the windshield stickers on VA cars. I’m looking to move to Arlington in perhaps the near future, so I would like to know.

    I’m disliking Alice Rivlin more and more every day.

  • avatar
    vvk

    This is such a dumb idea. Why not just increase fuel taxes? It is free to implement, automatic, no possibility for fraud and would be much more equitable and fair, too.

    Wouldn’t installing GPS tracking devices in all vehicles and the system to gather and process the data be exceedingly expensive to set up and administer? As in more expensive than what they can reasonably expect to charge in taxes?

  • avatar
    bill h.

    mtypex:

    The “car” tax is another form of personal property tax. I think other states have a similar system. You get assessed every year with a fee based on an average estimated value of your vehicles (I’m not certain, but they may use Kelley or a similar source), which typically decreases every year as the cars’ value declines. The tax rates are lower now than they used to be, when they were essentially an equivalent sales tax on your cars’ values every year.

  • avatar

    Just raise the effing gas tax!

    @autonut: DC may get money from Congress, but whatever it gets is probably not enough. Services are often terrible. A lot of roads are bad, particularly on the African American side of town.

  • avatar

    @mtypex
    I have to pay a local car tax, in Lexington Mass.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    The federal and state excise tax is only one component of money raised from motorists in the DC and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Other taxes imposed on motorists include Virginia’s personal property tax on automobiles, vehicle licensing and registration fees, a tax on car insurance, special taxes on commercial vehicles, as well as parking and speeding tickets. The total of all motorist-related taxes in Virginia exceeds the amount spent on road building and maintenance in the state, according to TheNewspaper’s analysis.

    Did everybody miss this?! Just like my home state of California, gas taxes, reg. fees, etc. already exceed road repair and construction costs. They just use these “dedicated revenue streams” for projects other than what we were told they are dedicated to.

  • avatar
    RichardD

    bill h. :
    Plus, if the trends seen in the polls bear out, next week’s election in the state will see a GOP Governor with an Attorney General that has as his platform a desire to challenge the Feds on any laws he doesn’t like

    Except if you read his platform, Bob McDonnell’s favorite (and only) solution to NoVA’s traffic problem is tolls. And you can’t even give Deeds a protest vote, because he wants the toll tax as well.

    At least the AG candidate, Cuccinelli, is anti-scamera.

  • avatar
    akitadog

    I grew up in and live in DC. As much as I love the city, I will be the first to leave if they implement this Big-Brother type scheme.

    There are plenty of other non-privacy-invading options for raising more money.

    1. Raise gas tax (no brainer)

    2. Raise registration fees, raise inspection fees and late inspection fees

    3. Require all new DC drivers (first license, not out-of-state transfer) to pay for and attend driving classes either through DC gov or private businesses BASED IN DC (to ensure taxes go back to the city)

    4. Fee for learner’s permit, and fee to renew it.

    5. Fee for driver’s license road test

    Anything else?

    As much as I would hate to raise any fees, I still think we should make it as difficult as can be to get a license, and I certainly do not want a MILEAGE-BASED SCHEME!

  • avatar
    Maxb49

    Disgusting. Another tax that will hurt the poor and middle class.

  • avatar
    muito_obrigado

    Raising the gas tax won’t work in DC in order to create meaningful revenue. As anyone who regularly visits the district can tell you, there are few convenient places to purchase gas in the district, even fewer that are safe enough to feel comfortable enough to get out of the car in.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    @mtypex,

    In Arlington County you pay $25 for the sticker and 5% on the assessed value of the car. However, there is a property tax relief formula that works out to: no tax on the first $3,000 of assessed value, 37% of 5% on $3,001 to $20,000 of assessed value, and the full %5 on any assessed value above $20,000. The assesments are mailed to you by the county and appear to be based on KBB. The valuations seem to be pretty fair.

  • avatar
    stuki

    There’s no real lobby groups backing gas taxes, and the oil lobby opposing it. So moronic schemes requiring all kinds of “public works” contracts have a lot higher chance of getting passed, as officials’ kids and spouses needs jobs and internships, and officials needs campaign donations, and voters who work for companies getting the majority of their revenue from government contracts.

    But hey, what’s the worry. DC is federal jurisdiction, right? And no one making less than $250,000/year will see a tax hike. And Obama will pay my mortgage, too.

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