A road map to better US roads
Congress should heed a panel that suggests replacing a tax on gas with one on miles driven.
It sounds Orwellian, the idea of tracking drivers from space, then taxing them based on miles traveled. But taxing miles instead of gasoline is a more reliable way to pay for America's highways. And it's not the Big Brother intrusion it appears to be.
Gas taxes – at both the federal and state levels – must inevitably go the way of the gas guzzler.
As vehicles become more fuel-efficient, they'll drink less gas, and thus produce less revenue to maintain and improve America's aging roads and mass transit. Add electric cars to the mix, and this revenue stream turns to a trickle.
This is one reason why a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel this week unanimously recommends replacing the federal gas tax with a tax on "vehicle miles traveled" (VMT) by 2020 – and indexing it for inflation. (At 18 cents per gallon, the federal gas tax has gone unchanged since 1993.)
Behind this trend lies another important realization: Financing for transport infrastructure can no longer depend on indirect fees hidden in the overall cost of a gallon of gas but must rely more on direct user fees, such as tolling and congestion pricing.