Road Charge pilot is approaching its halfway mark!

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.

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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.

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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

California’s Road Charge Pilot Program Launches Today

volunteer graphicSACRAMENTO – Caltrans has officially launched California’s new pay-by-mile Road Charge Pilot Program, where selected volunteer participants will help the state gain insight into an innovative way to finance California’s transportation infrastructure. This pilot will be an opportunity to study road charge alternatives to the gas tax and will provide the Legislature with the data needed to better determine whether a road charge funding concept is viable for California. No actual money will be exchanged during the pilot.

“We’re proud that thousands of Californians have signed up to volunteer for the California Road Charge Pilot Program,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “The opportunity to provide valuable input and evaluate the viability of a mileage based user fee system demonstrates the commitment that Californians have to our roads and keeping them well maintained.”

Volunteers that have been accepted to participate in the pilot are made up of drivers from all parts of California with various socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, some out-of-state volunteers will be featured in the pilot in order to help California determine how a road charge tax could impact visiting drivers.

Pilot participants will not actually pay a road charge while participating in the pilot. Instead, they will make simulated payments based on how far they drive. The pilot offers several options for participants to report their mileage, including six different low-to-high tech methods:

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The pilot is set to run for nine months from July 2016 to March 2017. When concluded, the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) will report the pilot’s findings to the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee, the California Transportation Commission and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature. The Legislature will make the ultimate decision on whether to enact a full-scale permanent road charge program in California.

Even if the Legislature decides not to implement a road charge, California will still be in need of a more sustainable roadway funding mechanism than the current fuel excise tax. The fuel excise tax only funds approximately $2.3 billion of work to maintain the 50,000 lane-miles and nearly 13,000 state-owned bridges on the state highway system. This leaves nearly $5.7 billion in unfunded repairs each year.

Road charging is based on the same principle that the current gas tax was created upon: the amount drivers pay to maintain roads should correspond to the number of miles they drive. However, the gas tax no longer serves this purpose now that cars drive farther and need less fuel.

California is not the only state researching alternative road funding options. Several other states—including Washington, Colorado, Utah and others—are also exploring the road charge concept of pay-by-the-mile. Last July, the state of Oregon launched phase one of its OReGO program, where volunteers are paying a road charge of 1.5 cents per mile driven instead of the fuel tax.

There is still time to volunteer for the California Road Charge Pilot! To sign-up and learn more about California’s program, please visit http://californiaroadchargepilot.com/sign-up

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The California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee was created by the California Transportation Commission on January 21, 2015, to study road charging pursuant to Senate Bill 1077 (2014).  The volunteer committee represents a variety of interests and stakeholders from across the state including highway user groups, data security experts, privacy rights organizations, social equity groups, regional transportation agencies, business interests, national research and policymaking bodies, members of the Legislature and representatives from the telecommunications industry.