As you probably know, the current gas tax funds a large portion of the transportation budget that pays for maintenance on our highways, ferries, and other infrastructure. It’s not providing enough money though. As vehicles become more fuel-efficient and people use more active transportation such as bicycling, walking and riding the bus, gas consumption decreases along with gas tax revenues.
Officials have been looking for other ways for many years to fund upkeep to our infrastructure and pay for new projects and programs. One possibility that has been brought up many times is a road usage charge (RUC) system, or a pay-by-the-mile system.
The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) wants to test drive (forgive the pun) a potential RUC system to see how it could work in Washington, and if it would prove to be more equitable than the current gas tax system.
In early 2018, the WSTC will launch a pilot study to see if a road usage charge makes sense for Washington long-term. The pilot is a chance for the public to test drive a simulation of a per-mile charge system – at no actual cost to drivers – so they can provide feedback on the results. Volunteers will choose one of four methods to record and report their mileage for roadway usage. High-tech, low-tech, and no-tech options to report miles driven will be tested during the pilot, ranging from manual reporting of a vehicle’s odometer annually, to using smartphones or in-vehicle technology.
If you are interested in being one of at least 2,000 volunteer drivers to participate in this pilot project, go to https://waroadusagecharge.org/ to sign up. Your input will help shape policy in Olympia by helping state lawmakers understand how this type of charge might work.
To be very clear, SRTC at this time is not taking a position on a potential pay-by-the-mile tax system.