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Road usage charge pilot offers roadmap for transportation funding in the US

To compensate for diminishing funds, a growing number of American states have looked to alternative revenue systems based on vehicle miles travelled.

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The assumption that fuel consumption parallels road use is outdated, said A-to-Be USA
The assumption that fuel consumption parallels road use is outdated, said A-to-Be USA

A-to-Be USA, the US subsidiary of Portuguese A-to-Be, has released a study that examines the viability of road usage charge (RUC) pilot programmes in Oregon, California and Washington.

 

A Roadmap for Optimal Distance-Based User Fee Systems is the second in a series of educational reports concerning transportation funding in the US.

 

Intelligent transportation systems

 

Experiences from these pilots can be used to establish core components of intelligent transportation systems in the US, according to A-to-Be USA.

 

America’s highways are paid for through primarily state and federal fuel taxes. These taxes have not kept pace with inflation and are worth 40 per cent less than they were 25 years ago.

 

To compensate for diminishing funds, a growing number of states have looked to alternative revenue systems based on vehicle miles travelled (VMT). Also known as a mileage-based user fee or RUC, the Federal Highway Administration forecasts VMT will grow at an average rate of one per cent annually over 20 years.

 

“The assumption that fuel consumption parallels road use is outdated and ignores evolving efficiency standards,” said Jason Wall, CEO, A-to-Be USA.

 

“Moreover, the current gas tax system places an unfair burden on low-income and rural households that spend more per mile on gasoline.”

 

As well as establishing viability for intelligent transportation systems in the US, the RUC pilot programmes in Oregon, California and Washington shed light on important consumer concerns, notes A-to-Be USA.

 

“Concerns for consumer privacy drive the development of intelligent transportation systems.”

 

Chief among them are privacy, ease-of-use and choice. The success of these pilots required close collaboration with private sector partners capable of administering the mock charge and managing customer accounts. A-to-Be solutions were used in California and Washington.

 

“Privacy is often cited as a key hurdle to the deployment of RUC systems,” continued Wall. “But concerns for consumer privacy drive the development of intelligent transportation systems. In fact, whereas many tax collection programmes require social security numbers, RUC systems do not collect personally identifiable information and there are non-GPS reporting methods available.”

 

Oregon is currently the only state to administer a fully operational RUC programme, OReGO. It went live in 2015 and is completely voluntary. Since then, it has enrolled more than 1,600 vehicles and last year legislation was passed to expand the programme.

 

Mileage-based alternatives

 

In 2017, California passed a stopgap measure to stabilise the state’s short-term needs and to allow time to explore mileage-based alternatives. The pilot ran from July 2016 to March 2017 and enrolled more than 5,000 volunteer participants.

 

The pilot programme in Washington concluded in January 2019 and the Washington State Transportation Commission is expected to offer its recommendations this month.

 

A-to-Be is a Portuguese-based company powered by Brisa (its major shareholder). It develops solutions for mobility service operators internationally.

 

A-to-Be claims it processes more than one billion tolling transactions and 25 million multi-service mobility transactions annually, managing more than seven million customer accounts.

 

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