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California Testing Pay-By-Mile Fee For Drivers

Photo caption: Traffic on I-5 South on April 18, 2009.

Photo by Nathan Rupert

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

California Testing Pay-By-Mile Fee For Drivers


Jim Madaffer, chair, Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee


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.

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.

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


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