Calif. studying ways to charge drivers by the mile

Updated Dec 15, 2017

I 80 Eastshore Fwy 2

Shortly after enacting its new gas tax hike, California transportation officials performed a study, the California Road Charge Pilot Program report, studying ways to charge drivers based on mileage rather than the amount of fuel they use, The Sacramento Bee reports.

The report included results from a road charge experiment where more than 5,000 volunteer drivers had their mileage monitored over a period of nine months. Most volunteers used a wireless device that transmitted mileage information to a state contractor.

The state then sent each driver a simulated monthly invoice, and drivers sent in online mock payments. Officials said the test went well, but think a system based on paying per mile at the gas pump or charging station would be simpler, more cost effective and more readily accepted by the public. However, they believe it will likely take until 2025 to come up with a system.

Caltrans Deputy Director Carrie Pourvahidi told the news agency that, early in 2018, the state will send out a request to technology companies asking for ideas on a simple communication system at gas stations or electric charging stations that can instantly tell how many miles the car has driven.

“It’d be point-of-sale technology,” she said. “We’re looking for something so simple that there is nothing (the driver) has to do.” If the technology is available, Caltrans will apply for a federal highway grant to explore how to set up a statewide system.

SB 1, which included a 12-cent-per-gallon tax increase, was passed by the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017 as a stopgap, but the bill is being challenged by tax groups who want it repealed in the November 2018 ballot. State officials said the tax should delay the expected transportation funding shortage by a decade or more, but the state will ultimately need a new system for funding road maintenance and repair.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) opposes SB 1 and dismissed the pay-per-mile concept as well, saying the state has adequate funding already. “It’s another terrible idea from Sacramento Democrats to reduce productivity,” he told the news agency.