Pilot Project Seeks to Replace Traditional Gas Tax

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It’s been five years since Oregon concluded its groundbreaking pilot that tested the feasibility of a per-mile fee charged to drivers in lieu of the traditional gas tax. The concept was proven in that pilot – the 2007 Road User Fee Pilot Program – but several key issues had to be addressed.

The 2012 Road Usage Charge Pilot Program (RUCPP) underway now is testing solutions to those issues.

“We took heed of the lessons learned in the first pilot,” said Jim Whitty, Office of Innovative Partnerships manager at the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Whitty outlined the program’s goals and mission to the Rogue Valley Area Commission on Transportation at its November meeting.

Roughly 40 volunteers are involved in the RUCPP, which runs through the first of 2013. Pilot participants chose from four plans. The first three plans are taxed at 1.56 cents per mile, approximately equivalent to Oregon’s 30-cent-per-gallon state gas tax. Gas tax paid at the pump during the pilot will be refunded or credited, based on fuel consumption reported from the vehicle or based on the vehicle’s EPA fuel efficiency rating. The four plans are:

  • A Basic Plan with no GPS or other location capability. The mileage is measured using the vehicle’s electronics (odometer);
  • An Advanced Plan with a mileage recording device that reports total miles driven, using GPS to determine which miles are driven outside of Oregon (miles not taxed);
  • A Smartphone Plan with a mileage reporting device that reports total miles driven, using the GPS function of a smartphone to determine which miles are driven outside of Oregon (miles not taxed). If the app is not turned on, only the total miles driven are reported;
  • A Pre-paid Flat Rate Plan with no mileage reporting device. The rate is $45 per month in lieu of reporting and paying for actual miles driven.

“It’s critical that we learn what’s needed to create an open system that can adapt and change as technology and the market change,” Whitty said.

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