Mission, Kansas and the State of Rhode Island are both exploring alternative methods for funding road construction, maintenance and transit. The Rhode Island Senate will be studying how a mileage tax, or VMT tax would work in the state. A VMT tax isn’t new in concept, Oregon has studied it, and the Dutch are doing it, this would add another US state to the list. Rhode Island is apparently feeling the effects of falling gas tax revenue, and searching for a better funding mechanism.
In Kansas, the city of Mission is considering a new fee based on the trips assumed to be generated by your specific property. Single-family properties generate on average fewer trips than a big box store, and thus are taxed less. This type of trip-generation model is the basis for how engineers currently develop city and regional traffic models. This is similar to a mileage tax, but using a slightly different (less accurate) method of estimating how much individuals are using the roads. In Mission, a single-family residence would pay $72 per year of this tax. The City figures that this new tax would bring in about $800,000 per year.
Using 2008 Census estimates, a similar tax on Twin Cities-area single-family homes only would net the region over $62.8 million per year, or over $100 million if you extended the same tax to all units. Keep in mind that in Mission they believe the burden will actually fall more heavily on commercial properties than residential, so this amount is probably less than half of what a hypothetical Twin Cities program might net. For some reference, spending in the state on roads and bridges in 2007 was over $2 billion.
These use-based fees may becoming more common as it becomes more obvious that road users are not paying their way (and haven’t for a while). In addition, as we switch from gasoline to other fuels, funding sources based on one particular fuel will be less and less useful.