Mileage-Based User Fee Public Opinion Study: Summary Report Phase One (Qualitative)

Status:  Complete
Report Date:  12/07/2007


A panel of select "key experts" expressed their opinion that the fuel tax is viewed as an accepted, efficient option for funding transportation, and that it will continue to be for the next 15 to 20 years. Mileage-based fees are a solution that will likely not be necessary nor feasible for at least 10 years according to the experts. It is imperative that transportation authorities clearly identify the objectives of the mileage-based user fee as a first step for determining structure/design of the concept and how to communicate it. These experts proposed that a mileage-based user fee should be used to supplement, rather than replace, the current motor fuel tax. Focus group participants (n = 10 groups) did not fully grasp the amount of tax dollars they spend per year on the transportation system, nor do they easily recognize the sources through which these monies come. After discussing the current and projected funding shortfalls from the motor fuel tax and hearing a brief description of a usage tax based on mileage, participants were generally comfortable with the idea of paying their "fair share" based on how much they use the roads. Varying a mileage-based fee based on size and/or weight of the vehicle was seen as logical, and not do so would unfairly penalize those who have chosen to drive fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicles. The congestion pricing model was seen as less fair because it would negatively impacts those drivers who need to travel for work during standard "rush hours." These participants were skeptical of the claim that the information would not be tracked, and being watched by "Big Brother" was mentioned frequently. Many believed that mileage-based user fee technology would be expensive to implement and maintain, and suggested that, if additional funds were needed, simply increase the existing fuel tax or registration fees. As qualitative research, these findings are not projectable to either of the segments researched.

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