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KPBS Midday Edition

California Testing Pay-By-Mile Fee For Drivers

Traffic on I-5 South on April 18, 2009.
Nathan Rupert
Traffic on I-5 South on April 18, 2009.

California Testing Pay-By-Mile Fee For Drivers
California Testing Pay-By-Mile Fee For Drivers GUEST: Jim Madaffer, chair, Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee

State officials have known for quite some time that California's gas tax is not providing the revenue needed to fix our roads. Got sufficient cars and electric vehicles have greatly reduced money generated by the gas tax in our roads keep getting worse. When idea to solve the problem is to introduce a road charge based on how many miles a driver travels making that work is complicated than it sounds of this month the first date road charge pilot program under way to test the whole idea. 20 me is Jim -- Jim Madaffer . Welcome to the program. Thank you very much. You have a few thousand volunteers with this pilot program. How were they going to report on how much they drive? Mac we had about 8000 folks around the state volunteer. We are at 3600 who are actually currently operating in the pilot. We gave them five different choices because privacy was a big issue that were focused on. Something as simple as a sticker that goes on the car like a vehicle inspection sticker to the highly complex onboard telematics that are already built into many vehicles been delivered today to where the miles they drive are automatically reported to a system. Walked us through some of the options. Let's go to this thing does not mean that your car would report to the state how many miles it is driven by We create a buffer between the driver and the state by letting them pick a third-party entity. There are companies out there like Verizon, and others that are actually doing this are moving toward it because around the country folks have figured out that gasoline is not going to be the long-term fuel of choice to operate vehicles and because we built a road system relying on a gasoline tax, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out we have to come up with a new system. This pilot while it is very much in and you can see this could be 5 to 10 years out before we see something implemented the idea behind it is to really test and to see what makes sense of what to motorists like of this pilot of what don't they like. For the next time as we are moving toward a limitation and then expand on the things that did work. Are these volunteers just keeping logs? Yes, we've given them five different choices something called a time permit or mileage permit and also something called an odometer charge where they can use a smart form and take a picture. It is reported to the agency and they're all odometers are logged and 80 miles of the drive are that basically miles that they pay for. People asked what is the rate. We come up with that average. It comes with the total amount of money at the average driver pays right now. That made sense when everybody got 10 miles to the gallon back in 1922. To you have people that are driving electric cars that are getting 50 to 60 miles per gallon. They're just not paying their fair share. Then on the converse there folks with a lower income categories that are driving older pupils. -- Vehicles. You are one of the testers on this road charge experiment. How is it going? You find it complicated? Not at all. When I'm iCars has telematics on medical report so I opted to work I do not care if they knew where I were. My smart phone knows where I am out so I was not worried about that or go I have a older vehicle that has one of those plug-in devices that plugs into the service port under the --. I can actually see where my car has been almost like a Fitbit for my car just by an app that's on my smart phone. It has some pretty cool features and will tell me where my car is a case I forgot where I parked it or go it will tell me if there are any issues with the agent. -- Engine. I understand that this pilot program is only a test. No actual money is exchanged. That is correct. This isn't belief is one -- really phase 1. It created the road charge pilot, if you will. The pilot ticked off July 1. More than likely what will happen is we will see a what we might be able to start off with. May be electric cars will start their fair share. I have not paid a thing to drive on the road. That is not Fair Park of this might be a way to capture electric car vehicles. Also trucks the trucking Association as above and they might be interested. I think you will see this based in overtime. 85% of all new cars by 2018 will have some form of cellular modem technology built-in. The ability for those vehicles could also be a possibility. I want to ask you about the criticism of the drivers tax will hurt those that live in low income or Wirral areas. Will be end up paying more under this mileage system compared to the gas tax system? That came up as we traveled the state in 2015. They probably will pay less. Somebody that is a of farm community or logging community are driving older field goal -- older vehicle. There probably paid about and since a mile right now. This rate is one .8 cents. They will get a break. Will check back in with you in nine months. Thank you very much.

Car owners across California are carefully tracking how far they drive this month as part of a pilot study measuring how the state could eventually phase out its tax on gasoline.

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The gas tax helps fund state road repairs, but it hasn't risen since 1994. A vote by California's tax board in February to reduce the gas tax by 2.2 cents went into effect July 1.

Combined with the rise of more fuel-efficient cars, including electric vehicles, California officials say the gas tax isn't providing enough revenue to fix the state's roads.

The proposed solution is to charge drivers based on how far they travel instead of how much gas they buy. The nine-month pilot launched this month, giving volunteers several options. They can buy a permit for unlimited travel or guess how many miles they will drive and buy miles in bulk. They can also personally track their mileage either by sending the state pictures of their odometer or using a plug-in device that automatically sends the information.

"It's like a Fitbit for your car," said Jim Madaffer, a member of the California Transportation Commission and chair of the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee.

Volunteers aren't actually paying for their mileage at this point in the pilot, but are getting simulated bills with how much they would have paid. The fee is currently 1.8 cents per mile. It could take another decade and likely another pilot study before the system is fully implemented, according to Madaffer.

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Madaffer joins KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss how California's plan stacks up against other states' road fee efforts.