For a better road system: electronic tolling

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The Oregon Road User Fee Task Force recently became the object of scorn by media pundits. Why? Because the Task Force recommended that Oregon test a Global Positioning Satellite-based system to collect tolls from motorists, using volunteer car fleets for the initial research.

Oregon roads are paid for primarily through a 24-cents per gallon state gas tax; however, the auto industry is undergoing a revolution. Hybrid-electric cars are available and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are close behind. Ultimately the gas tax will not support our road system because cars will consume much less gas, or none.

Thus, we should repeal the gas tax and replace it with a user fee based on miles driven. Electronic tolling systems that employ GPS devices and transponders are being used worldwide. More than 12 million transponder tags are in use within the U.S. alone.

Concerns about privacy under such a system are warranted. To protect privacy, tolling can and should be administered by private firms, just as they process ATM and credit card transactions. The development of payment alternatives that allow individuals to travel anonymously can be expected. These would be similar to those that allow email writers to send messages anonymously.

Gas tax revenue is a dinosaur facing extinction due to improving automotive technology. An alternative, equitable funding system must be created to support Oregon’s road system. Electronic tolling is the solution.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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