A pilot program by the Oregon Department of Transportation to test a road usage charge system launched this month in an effort to find ways to make up the transportation funding shortfall caused by a decline in gas tax revenue.
The 40 volunteers from across the state participating in the pilot program are paying a charge based on how many miles they drive instead of paying a gas tax. ODOT estimates the road usage charge is about equal to the amount they would pay in gas tax for a vehicle that gets about 20 mpg.
"This pilot will offer a peek into a future system where motorists will be responsible for choosing how they report their miles, from certified options, and also their account management provider," said ODOT Office of Innovative Partnerships Manager Jim Whitty in a statement. "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."
In order to make the program work for a large audience, ODOT focused on "choice, transparency, east of use, and protection of privacy" in working to create the usage charge system used in the pilot. Drivers can choose from five different plans utilizing various technologies and ways of collecting road usage information. They also had the option of choosing a flat annual charge instead of paying a per-mile charge, allowing them full privacy without any GPS or mileage-tracking technology.
"People want choices, so for this pilot, participants are choosing from several options for reporting and paying their bill," Whitty said. "ODOT won't make the choices for technologies—the participants will do that."
This is not the first road user fee pilot program ODOT has conducted, as it gathered information from a 2007 study on collecting funds for transportation in this manner. ODOT is currently in the process of responding to findings from that first pilot program.
The pilot is scheduled to continue through December and into January. ODOT will then put together a report to present to the Oregon State Legislature on its findings. Additional information on ODOT's pilot program is available at RoadChargeOregon.org, which includes a blog with entries by the pilot's volunteers.
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