California continues to face a transportation funding shortfall and the state’s drivers are paying the price. According to the latest National Urban Roads report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, California has some of the worst road conditions in the country. The TRIP report emphasized the need for a long-term sustainable funding source for highway maintenance.
Caltrans is doing its part with its “fix it first” method to utilize funding to perform preventive pavement maintenance to save taxpayer money on more expensive repairs in the future but with fuel efficiency on the rise, aging roadways, and increased construction costs, the gas tax no longer meets California’s current and long-term transportation funding needs.
In response to this problem, the Legislature directed CalSTA to study a mileage based fee as an alternative to the current gas tax revenue system. The pilot allows CalSTA to explore an alternative to the traditional gas tax which has not been raised since 1992. The program examines how this type of sustainable transportation funding model might function in a large state like California, while taking into account important aspects like privacy concerns, usability, and participant feedback.
In July, Caltrans launched the California Road Charge Pilot Program (RCPP) to research the viability of a mileage based transportation funding model.The RCPP has enrolled over 5,000 private and commercial vehicles statewide. Participants of the 4,567 private vehicles in the program represent the diverse demographic, geographic and socio-economic population of California.
Participants are utilizing multiple mileage reporting methods including manual reporting, low technology, or high technology (automated) reporting. Mileage reporting technologies being tested in the pilot range from plug-in devices and smartphone apps to time permits and odometer readings. Of the participants using automated reporting, 65% opted for location based reporting. A more detailed breakdown of participant mileage reporting methods can be viewed here.
At this point in the pilot, participants have had the opportunity to view mock up invoices for their road usage charge and make monthly simulated payments based on mileage driven. The pilot program allows for transparency, allowing drivers to see the relationship between how much they use the roads and how much they should pay to maintain them. Participants are now approaching the halfway point in the pilot program and they will have the opportunity to switch reporting methods and/or their Account Manager from November 1st to 15th.
The federal government has recognized California’s efforts to research funding alternatives and awarded Caltrans with a $750,000 grant to enhance the current pilot program. These grant dollars will help Caltrans engage with the public on transportation funding and future alternative methods of revenue generation. It will also allow the pilot to improve organizational structure, expand education and outreach, and explore alternative mileage reporting and recording options. This research will help inform the Administration and the Legislature on the efficacy of the program.
Overall, the pilot has received positive feedback from participants in regards to satisfaction rates. Based on results from a participant survey, 76% of participants found the pilot easy to participate in and were satisfied with their mileage reporting option. Pilot program participant KPCC Reporter Meghan McCarty talked about her pilot experience so far on public radio, hear what she had to say here.
The diverse group of participants will help strengthen this potential transportation funding system. Their feedback will be included into a final pilot report that CalSTA will submit to the California Legislature, California Transportation Commission, and the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee in June 2017.
To learn more about the California Road Charge Pilot Program, visit its website at: www.CaliforniaRoadChargePilot.com