New Report Examines How Cities Can Pilot Road User Charge Systems

Car driving down road
Car driving down road

WASHINGTON — March 11, 2019 — Today, at its annual Congressional City Conference, the National League of Cities (NLC) released a report, “Fixing Funding by the Mile: A Primer and Analysis of Road User Charge Systems,” to help local leaders pilot road user charge (RUC) systems. A RUC system, also commonly referred to as a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax or a Mileage Based User Fee (MBUF) system, would charge a driver for their use of a roadway. RUC systems could be used as a potential sustainable funding solution for America’s transportation infrastructure deficit and an answer to the financial challenges of the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to run dry by 2021.

“Having safe, reliable infrastructure is a priority for every single local leader,” said NLC President Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, Indiana. “Investing in infrastructure means investing in the people in our communities. By piloting new technologies like road user charge systems, local leaders have the opportunity to find ways to sustainably and equitably fund infrastructure.”

In the report, NLC explores how road user charge (RUC) systems can become a practical funding alternative to keep up with the nation’s transportation mobility projects. The report analyzes the technology behind RUC systems, reviews the different pilot programs, and shows the potential advantages and barriers to implementing a RUC program in the U.S.

In 2016, 3.2 trillion miles were driven on U.S. roads. Autonomous vehicle technology, app-based mobility models and promises of smart city connectivity now make road user models more practical for the future.

Furthermore, gas tax revenues, which have traditionally funded infrastructure projects, are projected to drop steadily with the advent of electric vehicles. By 2025, fourteen percent of road vehicles could be electric. These systems could charge a driver for their use of a roadway and provide sustainable funding for America’s transportation.

Recommendations for cities looking to implement pilots include:

  • Encourage Collaborative Efforts
  • Gain State Legislative Buy-in
  • Understand Public Opinion
  • Provide the Public with Options

“The mobility landscape is changing: Driverless cars, electric vehicles, e-scooters and even robots are coming to our streets. But we still haven’t fixed our nation’s infrastructure,” said Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director for NLC’s Center for City Solutions. “We all deserve safe roads and bridges, clean drinking water and access to broadband. Ultimately, city leaders will be the ones to usher in the innovative, forward-looking systems to get us there.”

NLC’s top legislative priority in 2019 is rebuilding and reimagining America’s infrastructure. The Rebuild With Us campaign has prioritized ways Congress and the administration can work with local leaders in key areas, including transforming our transportation systems, broadband and water infrastructure. NLC is calling on Congress to develop and pass a comprehensive bill that rebuilds and reimagines America’s infrastructure in partnership with local governments, because America’s cities, towns and villages can’t afford to wait.

Research for this guide was completed by graduate students at the American University Department of Public Administration and Policy, in partnership with NLC.

You can read the full report here

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The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 280 million people across the country. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.