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Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

  • 1.  Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 01-25-2017 04:52 PM
    Edited by Veronique Nguyen 01-25-2017 04:47 PM
    Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) has grown as a potential candidate to replace the gas tax in many states.  Currently Oregon has a voluntary pilot program (OreGO), and a similar program kicked off in 2016 in California.  Many other countries also utilize this method to generate infrastructure funding, but only apply the fee on trucks.  While a fairer method of taxation than the current per gallon gas tax, VMT has opponents given privacy concerns over the collection of the VMT data from users.  What can we, as engineers, do to change the public perception of VMT and advance it as a better alternative to fund highway infrastructure projects

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    Aaron Frits P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE
    Road Design Leader
    Lawrence KS
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  • 2.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 01-25-2017 10:26 PM
    We can assure highway travelers that there will also be a surcharge on VMT based upon weight of the vehicle. This is to make the actual impact to the highway infrastructure as well as the highway congestion impact are also included in the replacement tax.  If I remember my highway pavement design course, the impact to the highway is a logarithmic impact based on weight, so a 2 ton vehicle causes 4x more impact than a 1 ton vehicle to the pavement. 

    The gasoline highway tax was a very fair system as it also inherently covered this impact since MPG's are impacted by vehicle weight.  And you therefore buy more gas and pay more taxes.  This is an indirect carbon tax.  Which is a more fair impact to the highways as well as the pollution impact to the atmosphere.  

    For now I'm not a fan of switching to VMT as it does not address the impact due to carbon.  


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    Douglas Porter P.E., M.ASCE
    Lakewood CO

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  • 3.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 01-26-2017 03:25 PM
    I agree with VMT as an alternative to fuel taxes.  The reason it will work is because there are many more vehicles with electricity used for travel. Those vehicles move many miles using a lower cost fuel that may pollute less from the vehicle yet also generate pollution from the fuels used in power plants like uranium, natural gas, diesel, and coal. The electricity is limited in cost by state agencies to keep the cost of home power down, yet the roads, streets, and travel venues still cost money to build and maintain.

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    Jack Reinhard P.E., M.ASCE
    RETIRED
    Atlanta GA
    (210)248-8086
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  • 4.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 01-26-2017 09:35 AM
    I like the concept, but in urban areas with public transportation and poor air quality, it may not make as much sense. In the aggregate it might generate a lot of revenue, but individual VMT can actually be very low, particularly among the highest income city dwellers who are most capable of paying and who should be incentivized toward public transportation over their cars. It would be particularly regressive on suburban commuters: longer commutes are largely driven by cost-of-living considerations, so lower income commuters would pay more by-definition (lower income city dwellers tend to not have vehicles). 

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    Timothy Groninger P.E., M.ASCE
    White Plains NY
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  • 5.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 01-26-2017 09:36 AM
    The heavier the vehicle, the more impact it has on the roadway system.  Also, the heavier the vehicle, the more gasoline it consumes, and hence the more use tax paid when assessed as a gasoline tax.  While it may not be a perfect system, it seems more equitable than a VMT system that apportions a low-impact vehicle the same as a high-impact one.  Why replace the current system with one that is not only less equitable, but difficult to assess?

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    Jerry Coombs P.E., M.ASCE
    President
    Coombs Engineering
    Richardson TX
    (214)287-4696
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  • 6.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 01-26-2017 11:08 AM
    The breakdown of the argument is assuming that the heavier the vehicle, the higher the gasoline consumption.  Hybrids and electrical vehicles have low or zero consumption but also increase demand for roads and maintenance.  The purest user fee is a toll road but people hate them.  VMT can be adjusted for vehicle size and weight once people accept they must all pay in some form. 

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    Stuart Moring P.E., F.ASCE
    Dir Of Pub Wrks
    Roswell GA
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  • 7.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 01-26-2017 12:07 PM
    The gas tax as it is will be a dying model if we continue with it, and possibly GAW calculations based on loads.  The reasoning is that cars and trucks are getting lighter and consuming less fuel overall, and eventually they will be even lighter and consume zero gas.  I think the weight that can be handled by axles should be the basis for an annual tax (or gross weight of the vehicle as axles design may improve?).

    Also, there are roadways that need to be placed on diets.  Our infrastructure is built on a non-renewable resource, and as less of it is around the price will rise.  Alternatives should be sought out immediately, and maybe a great place to start would be to include carbon capturing roadways as there are literally tons of it out there in the U.S. highway system.

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    Michael Griffin P.E., M.ASCE
    Athens AL
    (251)599-4580
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  • 8.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 02-15-2017 12:16 PM

    Great to see the ASCE membership contribute to the current dialogue on the pros and cons of using a mileage based fee (aka VMT fee) to collect revenue to support transportation services. Special thanks to Aaron Frits for initiating the dialogue. A lot of very good points have been made. We at the UMass Transportation Center have been involved in transportation finance related research for more than 10 years including projects regarding the use of a mileage based fee. Here are a few observations based on our research.

    1. There is no shortage of opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of using a mileage based fee to collect (and not to collect) revenue to support transportation services.
    2. When considering the use of a mileage based fee to collect revenue to support transportation services we suggest that it be referred to as a “fee” rather than a “tax” when you view it as a “user charge for transportation services rendered”. A Washington D.C. based group, the Mileage Based User Fee Alliance, has been promoting the use of the term “mileage based user fee” (MBUF) to describe what many refer to as a VMT fee.
    3. While researchers, engineers, legal experts, policymakers, stakeholder groups, and others sort out issues and challenges related to establishing a mileage based user fee and as they test various technologies to collect the fee from road users, we should continue to consider other sources of revenues - both user and non-user based - (see https://ideas.repec.org/a/taf/transp/v39y2016i3p239-253.html) including placing mileage based tolls on roads with full control of access (e.g. interstates) that are not currently tolled. While the widespread use of tolls on interstates will likely require an act of Congress, such tolls can be collected easily with existing technologies and without traditional toll plazas which are expensive to build and operate and can significantly reduce the roadway capacity. In addition to generating needed revenue to support transportation investments, such tolls will enhance the public’s understanding of mileage based user fees and perhaps help the transportation community get greater public acceptance and policy makers’ support of mileage based fees using advanced technologies.
    4. On March 16 at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington D.C. the Mileage Based User Fee Alliance is holding the 4th Annual National Conference on “What, Where, and How” of implementing a mileage based fees using advanced technologies. Included will be presentations on the FAST Act Section 6020 grants and current state pilots mentioned by Laura Hale. For further details see http://www.mbufa.org/
    5. As we think about innovative ways to collect revenues to support transportation services fairly and efficiently, we also need to consider ways of reducing capital and operating costs incurred in the provision of services.


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    John Collura Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Professor
    South Hadley MA
    (413) 545-5404
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  • 9.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    Posted 02-17-2017 10:26 AM
    Although this discussion got started w/ VMT, let's include other potential ways of rebuilding/maintaining our Interstate system which is second to none in the world. 

    If it takes an an of Congress, as suggested, to convert the Interstate to toll facilities, then let's explore ways to make that a reality.  

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    Steven Rienks P.E., PMP, M.ASCE
    Naperville IL
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  • 10.  RE: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)