Archive for July, 2013

Tolls + Technology = Inefficiency

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Tolls are finally becoming “interoperable,” according to representatives of the so-called “tolling industry,” the folks  who used to nickel and dime drivers but today extract much larger sums.  What this means, once the system is up and running, is that drivers can travel on toll roads in various states and most of the time, receive a bill for their tolls.

A representative of the industry stated in a press release touting the development: “This is an important development on the path to nationwide interoperability . . . that could help knit together regions of tolling interoperability . . . and make traveling easier for motorists.”

While it sounds like a technological breakthrough, it is anything but that.

Taking photos of drivers’ license plates, identifying the type of transponder (or lack thereof), hunting them down in various state data bases, and then billing them, seems in this day and age to be inefficient and labor intensive.  And the rates of toll evasion are high.

There is a much more effective system in the marketplace, one that is highly efficient and virtually evasion free.  Even better, instead of tracking down thousands of motorists each day, the system relies on about 1,500 taxpayers nationwide to equitably tax virtually every driver in the U.S.

When transportation fuels are transferred in bulk at the wholesale level, the fuels are taxed at a per-gallon rate. Those taxes are electronically remitted to the Internal Revenue Service. It’s a tried-and-true method of tax collection that transfers billions of dollars annually to the highway trust fund. It’s called the fuel tax.  So long before a driver fills up his vehicle and ventures down the road, the taxes have already been paid.

It’s not a perfect system, though it’s close to perfect in simplicity. And  the flaws are easily rectified with a very simple change:  a rate adjustment. The taxes were set 20 years ago and haven’t changed.  Miles-traveled is on the decline, and with vehicles getting superior mileage, the rates most definitely should be changed. But for efficiency and effectiveness it can’t be beat.

The answer to our funding shortfalls for infrastructure can be easily fixed by adjusting the fuel tax, with “interoperability” already built in.

olls are finally becoming “interoperable,” according to representatives of the so-called “tolling industry,” the folks  who used to nickel and dime drivers but today extract much larger sums.  What this means, once the system is up and running, is that drivers can travel on toll roads in various states and most of the time, receive a bill for their tolls.

A representative of the industry stated in a press release touting the development: “This is an important development on the path to nationwide interoperability . . . that could help knit together regions of tolling interoperability . . . and make traveling easier for motorists.”

While it sounds like a technological breakthrough, it is anything but that.

Taking photos of drivers’ license plates, identifying the type of transponder (or lack thereof), hunting them down in various state data bases, and then billing them, seems in this day and age to be inefficient and labor intensive.  And the rates of toll evasion are high.

There is a much more effective system in the marketplace, one that is highly efficient and virtually evasion free.  Even better, instead of tracking down thousands of motorists each day, the system relies on about 1,500 taxpayers nationwide to equitably tax virtually every driver in the U.S.

When transportation fuels are transferred in bulk at the wholesale level, the fuels are taxed at a per-gallon rate. Those taxes are electronically remitted to the Internal Revenue Service. It’s a tried-and-true method of tax collection that transfers billions of dollars annually to the highway trust fund. It’s called the fuel tax.  So long before a driver fills up his vehicle and ventures down the road, the taxes have already been paid.

It’s not a perfect system, though it’s close to perfect in simplicity. And  the flaws are easily rectified with a very simple change:  a rate adjustment. The taxes were set 20 years ago and haven’t changed.  Miles-traveled is on the decline, and with vehicles getting superior mileage, the rates most definitely should be changed. But for efficiency and effectiveness it can’t be beat.

The answer to our funding shortfalls for infrastructure can be easily fixed by adjusting the fuel tax, with “interoperability” already built in.

- See more at: http://www.natso.com/blog/posts/view/233#sthash.TCdRfzef.dpuf

Washington State Seeks to Toll I-90; Lawmaker Questions Legality

Monday, July 15th, 2013

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is seeking to toll Interstate 90 under the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Value Pricing Pilot Program, which allows the tolling of existing interstates for projects testing innovative ways to alleviate congestion. But already Congressman Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) is questioning the authority of the federal government to authorize such a plan.

In a letter to incoming Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx, Rep. Reichert raised concerns about the potential impacts that tolling I-90 would have on commerce as well as its potential to set an influential precedent for states nationwide seeking funds for transportation projects. Furthermore, Rep. Reichert questioned whether tolling I-90 would be a misuse of the pilot program’s authority because WSDOT’s primary purpose for tolling I-90 is to pay for a state highway bridge, rather than to mitigate congestion.

Tolling existing lanes on interstates is prohibited by federal law, except under tolling pilot programs created by Congress.

N.C. Governor Signs Legislation Restricting State’s Ability to Toll I-95

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

In a victory for the No Tolls I-95 Coalition, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory last week signed the Strategic Mobility Formula (H.B. 817) into law, which will change the way the state prioritizes road funding projects and limit the state’s ability to impose tolls.

Under the legislation, the Turnpike Authority may designate one or more lanes of a highway as high-occupancy toll lanes or “other managed lanes” provided they do not reduce the number of existing general purpose lanes. In addition, tolling projects must be approved by all affected Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Rural Transportation Planning Organizations.

The N.C. DOT has been seeking to toll I-95 under a federal pilot program. To date, more than 5,500 individuals have signed an online petition to oppose the tolls, and 20 local governments have passed resolutions against the plan.

The Strategic Mobility Formula also replaces the state’s current Equity Formula, and implements a tiered approach to funding transportation improvements. Forty percent of funds will be spent at the statewide level, or $6 billion. Another 30 percent, or $4.5 billion, is directed to the the regional level and 30 percent, $4.5 billion, goes to the division level over the next 10 years.