Alternative road funding – developments in Oregon

The US state of Oregon started consideration of alternative sources of road funding in 2001 when it became obvious that the existing gas tax – the primary source of US transport funding – was not future proof. Modern vehicles were becoming more fuel efficient (and new vehicles required to be more so) and a growing proportion using alternative sources of energy, e.g. electric vehicles.

After reviewing 28 different road funding options a distance based Road User Fee (RUF) pilot program was developed and findings reported in 2007. The pilot used a pay at the pump model.

A number of issues were raised, primarily about potential privacy in using a GPS based system, so in 2012 Oregon is about to trial a new model.

“There will be no requirement for a GPS device or a government box for any car. Rather, participating motorists will choose the method they want for reporting miles driven and for paying their bill from among several options. Should they choose an electronic means of reporting, they will have options from among technologies they already use for other purposes. Some may choose reporting directly from their odometer, like many do now for pay-as-you-drive insurance. Others may use their own navigation unit or … other factory installed telematics. ODOT is developing a non-technology option as well that will likely involve buying miles ahead of use. Still others may want to pay a flat annual tax—buying essentially an unlimited number of miles—to avoid the reporting system altogether.” (1)

The voluntary pilot is designed to be cost neutral to the user – i.e. replacing the amount raised by fuel tax. Adjacent states of Washington and Nevada will also join the pilot.

By starting their considerations in 2001, Oregon is at least 11 years ahead of us in Australia – but then we are able to fast track the process using what they have learnt in the process.

Reference: (1) Road User Charge Pilot Program

1 thought on “Alternative road funding – developments in Oregon”

  1. I think the reluctance to use GPS information for charging systems is ridiculous when you consider that all smartphones can be tracked by GPS and also cell tower triangulation. Why is a vehicle any more sensitive than a phone?

    What is really the issue is who can gain access to location-based information about a subscriber or subject person and that is a significant question, but not one that is unique to vehicle road-usage charging. So what is needed is a better guarantee that road-user charging records based on GPS information can be protected from unauthorised access.


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