Proposed Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax Law in California, Using GPS Tracking

24 Jul 2012

The state of California is the latest state to consider attaching GPS tracking devices to San Francisco nine-county Bay Area motorists’ vehicles in order to track miles driven. In one of our previous posts we reported that the states of Florida, Minnesota, and Oregon are also investigating a similar arrangement.

If the proposed law is approved, motorists would be require to install a GPS tracker device in their car, which officials would use to track miles driven — and calculate a tax based on every mile the drivers travel.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission of San Francisco is proposing the new law as a way to not only reduce pollution, but also cut down on traffic congestion. But pollution and traffic congestion reduction aren’t the only two reasons that the commission is looking into the new law. The additional income derived from the proposed Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax would also be used to repair and improve the Bay Area’s roadways and enhance public transit services.

“We’re not interested in where they go. We’re only interested in the amount they travel,” said Randy Rentschler with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.” I don’t want to say it’s pie in the sky. A VMT charge is really an option for the future to be looked at and considered,” Rentschler commented.

While the details of the proposed plan are still being figured out, the VMT tax could potentially be set-up to cost up to 10 cents per mile driven, and be tied to the time the motorist is traveling on the roads. That is, traveling during peak hours could be tied to a higher tax than driving during less congested times. All in all, the VMT tax could raise revenue of up to $15 million daily for the Bay Area.

As it currently stands, gas taxes are a means of revenue that are used to improve the nation’s byways and highways. However, with more fuel efficient vehicles being manufactured and purchased by consumers, less gas is being purchased. With less gas being purchased, there is less gas tax revenues — which means less money to improve the transportation systems.

The Vehicle Miles Traveled tax is part of a long-range 25-year One Bay Area Plan designed to comply with requirements to decrease California Green House Gass (GHG) emissions.

If the proposed law is approved, it could be implemented as early as next year, but more realistically will take longer — much longer — to get public buy-in and all the kinks worked-out. Obstacles such as the public’s concern over Big Brother peering over their shoulders and Uncle Sam taking more out of their wallets, coupled with the the fact that the VMT tax is a complicated process to implement, and the proposed law could be years away from becoming a reality.

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