House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman-Elect Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) indicated in an interview with reporters late last week that he won't rule out consideration of a "vehicle-miles tax" (VMT) as potential sources of revenue to support highway and transit funding. "I'm not wedded to any options," Shuster said according to an article in Businessweek. "We need to explore them all."Other potential options could include raising the gas tax, tolling and public-private partnerships, the article said. But it's the tax based on vehicle miles driven that could be the most politically sensitive of all the options.Shuster's selection by Republicans as the committee's next chairman and his apparent willingness to consider additional revenue options prompted the topic of this week's poll question on ProgressiveRailroading.com: Would you be in favor of Congress passing a vehicle-miles tax to fund transportation?Let us know what you think of the VMT idea by voting in the poll and/or posting a comment here.
This idea has been bouncing around for a while and one of the proposed ways of implementing it is a device on all cars to track their travels. Certainly this can be done,but why add more technology to cars, set up a new bureaucracy to administer it and have everybody have to pay another bill every month? Why not just raise the gas tax? The amount of the gas tax paid by a motorist is generally proportional to miles traveled and it has the additional advantage of favoring those who drive more economical vehicles, which also do less damage to roads. Paying it requires no new technology, the mechanism is already in place, it favors energy conservation and there is no easy way to avoid paying it.
In reply to JohnS:
I agree that the the MVFT, gallonage, is important to encourage fuel efficiency; but this grossly under-prices the cost of construction and degradation of pavement and bridges for medium and heavy vehicles.
For this, VMT is a fairer measure that needs to be used in combination with the MVFT to make up the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund. Miles by class of licensed vehicle would be taxed as a gross measure. This might be done either with existing or modified vehicle inspection programs and sealed odometers, black-box event recorders, satellite tracking, or a combination to discourage evasion of taxes. Technology may allow tracking actual empty and loaded weight miles.
I can understand how truck owners would not like this increase; but it is, in reality, the end of a subsidy they enjoy at the expense of railroads.
This is a right step to an even playing field for ALL modes. Passengers using each mode should be the ones paying for infrastructure . William F. Buckley in National Review On Line wrote an article "Yes to Railroads" pointed out that passenger rail should not be the only mode to bite the
bullet . Until a level playing field is established, I will support Amtrak. Only problem with Amtrak
is their arbitrary decision to "suspend" the Sunset Route between New Orleans and Florida.
This route is in the National System and their budget should run the service . Since when can they suspend a route due to a natural disaster after the freight road repairs the track. . Today it is the Sunset. Tomorrow it could be YOUR train , maybe the Empire Builder or the California Zephyr
In reply to Clinchfield:
America is now reduced to scratch about like a bum looking for old stogies in the gutter to keep infrastructure from collapse... Robert L. Hirsch report to Congress on Mitigation Of Peaking Oil and later paper by Lionel Badel: Peak Oil Effects On Foreign Policy - are important reads for Railway executives and Board Chairmen, though not 1 in 10 would have a clue on the current world oil supply depletion picture if queried. Add to that, what about strategic considerations in an extraordinary transport crisis
Naheem Davis is a declared Jihadist; he pushes an "Infidel" in front of a train in NYC, and most likely nobody in the industry will connect that cowardly act with information in George Grant's "The Blood Of The Moon". Interesting habit of underinformed railroaders continues when one asks, "who in the rail industry follows the Middle East Saga?" Back to murderer Davis: Now we are going to look at platform safety, with discussion about slow orders near stations, gating, etc., more delay issues as we see in aviation... Looking at the rat while the tiger is about to leap... How many more Naheems are thinking about playing badly with American railways?
The pitiful scramble to fund railway infrastructure goes on, when energy supply and strategic planning think tanks are looking at drastic shortcomings in motor fuel supply-hence inadequate railway capacity & reach, far beyond the scope of "normal" replacement/expansion methodologies... How does railway management react to Federal Executive Emergency Orders for motor fuel rationing here & now in the 21st century?
An example of the magnitude of conventional rail expansion needed can be seen by examination of the "North American Water And Power Alliance" suite of projects. Water without sewage and medical/chemical pollutants is increasingly difficult to deliver to residential taps in many cities in North America. Need for Aquifer recharge is approaching crisis stage.
The United States has fallen into such a state of deferred maintenance, it is doubtful we could recover from even a limited number of events disabling transport or water/energy supply distribution without declaration of martial law. The railway network, such as it is, is far too limited in scope to deal with even a limited breakdown of truck oriented distribution. Railway executives we talk to would not be up to the task of even imagining dealing with this sort of calamity. This is an existential issue for America, boys & girls!
Let's get on with a late look at the energy outlook, as a starting point. See "Aleklett's Blog"; all hands at managerial level and above can see Kjell Aleklett's impartial & scholarly analysis of the conventional oil supply outlook. Professor Aleklett is president of "The Association For The Study Of Peak Oil & Gas", and is able to show details of just how annual conventional oilfield depletion makes it very difficult to maintain growth of motor fuel supply even with massive "reserves" touted as panacea for transport needs.
"DEBKAfile" gives running news stream on the military buildup in the Middle East, and is fair warning to US transport planners (Railroaders) of need to make extraordinary efforts to expand railway capacity & reach over this decade. Moreover, the situation near term requires scoping all dormant branch line corridor, including specific districts .without rails since the end of WWII.
Most rail execs will not hear of such things, but someone in each of the 3000 US County Planning Bureaus will need to acquire US Rail Map Atlas Volumes from spv.co.uk. and be aware of legacy rail corridor in their respective locales. More astute souls with Hirsch and Badel and Aleklett and Heinberg in hand, will approach the American Short Line Regional Railroad Association member nearest, and begin figuring out first steps to assure rail links as aviation gasps for Jet-A, , then long-haul trucking runs short on diesel.
US Army/Guard Railroad Operating & Maintenance Battalions will be reformed. Older military logistics hands recall their Railroad moniker: "Second Dimension Surface Transport Logistics Platform" and shall assist the new generation transport units with the railway rehab program.
This all gets into focus as the sharper rail execs among us understand the Middle East is -Right Now- in a situation akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, and this time it's about motor fuel supply, WMD and the beginning of a transport emergency lasting for years.. Maybe Mmes. Angela Cotey & Julie Schneider can write up comprehensive articles for their respective venues? Too, nothing stopping up & coming executive office interns putting together an executive summary for the Board of Directors...
Oh. someone have Bill Schuster's number?
Another way for people who drive cars get to subsidize AMTRAK and other public service transportation. How about we take back the highway fuel tax for what it was supposed to be used for to begin with. The Toll way in illinois took on a life of it's own with half the cost to use going to handle the actual operations. The tax collection system was already in place, except the money was diverted to other uses than highway improvements. The tollway just became another tax consuming entity.