San Francisco Area Officials Considering Per-Mile Driving Tax
Proposal would charge drivers based on how far they travel and track them with GPS devices.
The downside of fuel efficiency: Going farther on a gallon of gas means less money going into local and state coffers in the form of fuel taxes to fund transportation infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. While gas taxes have worked for decades as the most efficient way to spread the pain by making drivers pay at the pump, more fuel-efficient vehicles combined with fewer miles driven overall have caused transportation officials to seek more creative ways to reap revenue, such as converting interstate highways to toll roads.
The always forward-thinking and environmentally conscious Californians in the San Francisco Bay Area have come up with a novel way to raise money for roads and public transportation, while also potentially reducing traffic and automobile emissions: charging motorists a tax for every mile they drive. Members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments recently authorized a study of a possible vehicle-miles-traveled tax as part of a larger environmental review of transportation options for the area.
Under the proposal, drivers in the nine-county Bay Area would be required to install GPS-like odometers or other devices in their vehicles, and would pay anywhere from less than a penny to as much as a dime for every mile driven. Based on current Bay Area driving patterns, such a mileage tax could raise up to $15 million every day.
But the idea could take a decade or more before it’s launched. Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler acknowledged that the concept could prove tough even for the notoriously liberal Bay Area residents to swallow, and that they would likely reject the idea of both the travel tax and the government-mandated tracking devices.
“The last thing we're interested in is where you go and what you do,” Rentschler said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “What we're trying to do is get people to figure out a way to raise revenue that they could support.” And since San Francisco likes to consider itself one of the most European of U.S. cities, maybe the residents would feel comforted by the fact that a survey last year by the European Commission found that a majority of Europeans would be happy to pay higher taxes for driving more, as opposed to the current flat-rate registration and road tax. And many European Union countries also include in their car tax system a charge for carbon-dioxide emissions per kilometer traveled.
The Mercury News pointed out that pilot studies of mileage taxes have been conducted in Atlanta and also in several communities in Oregon and Washington. Drivers in those studies logged fewer miles when they were given a sum of money and then had amounts deducted based on how much they drove.
EXPLORE NEW CARS
MORE ON MSN AUTOS
ABOUT EXHAUST NOTES
Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.
Have a story idea? Tip us off at firstname.lastname@example.org.