A New Approach to Assessing Road User Charges
For many years, the motor fuel tax has been the main source of highway financing in the U.S. However, in the interest energy independent and lower emissions, the auto industry and federal government are now working cooperatively to design vehicles that are either hybrid, or powered by means other than fossil fuel. These vehicles are not yet prevalent enough to severely impair motor fuel tax revenues, but likely soon will be. Thus, this is a propitious time to explore a new approach to assessing road user charges. We concentrated on smart vehicle technology: some form of on-board system that would enable a user charge to be assessed on the basis of the distance driven, wherever travel occurred. In designing the new approach presented in this monograph, we emphasized user friendliness. Other focuses included privacy of the road user, convenience, and ability to include desirable features such as on-board navigation and emergency vehicle location. We also looked to make the new approach secure, robust, reliable, and sufficiently flexible to enable a variety of public policies to be supported.