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Research and Data

drives the future

Good research and data leads to better decisions. Both quantitative and qualitative data collected during the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s MBUF pilot will help researchers as they explore the benefits and challenges of a distance-based user fee in real-world scenarios.

Potentially transitioning to a different way of funding our roadways will take creative thinking and exploration. Data from the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s study will help bring the decisions ahead into better focus and provide insights on possible next steps. 

Initial results from the Phase I Pilot are available by clicking here. As additional findings from our pilot are available they will be posted here.

MBUF PILOT PROJECTS IN THE UNITED STATES

Several western states have been at the forefront of investigating and demonstrating MBUF as an alternative to the fuel tax for providing a sustainable funding source for transportation. Pilots in other states have established that the MBUF concept is feasible, but needs further exploration and refinement. More recent pilots have explored different account management and mileage reporting options to improve public acceptance and lower administrative costs. However, there is still much to learn.


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National experience has found that public misunderstanding and associated political resistance are significant challenges facing the implementation of an MBUF system. But data has shown that experiencing MBUF first-hand through pilots has been an integral part of the MBUF education and outreach effort. Overall satisfaction has been consistently high among pilot participants (see graph).

The notion of “fairness” is an integral aspect of why MBUF is being explored as a long-term sustainable transportation funding approach. As the fuel efficiency increases and more electric and hybrid vehicles are on the road, the amount motorists pay to use our transportation system becomes more linked to the type of car they drive versus the number of miles they drive, with some drivers (those who don’t use fuel) paying nothing at all. The widening gap between the most and least fuel-efficient vehicles has led to an issue of equity.


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An MBUF levels the playing field by creating a direct connection between the amount you pay and the amount you use (the “user pays” principle) thereby appealing to a fundamental notion of fairness widely accepted by consumers in other marketplaces.

MBUF experiences to date have shown that the majority of participants view MBUF as a fair funding method (see graph).

In spite of recent MBUF pilot success, issues of equity are likely to persist with the concept. MBUF systems are likely to increase the cost of driving for the owners of electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles, which may be viewed as unfair to those who have made conscious decisions to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Furthermore, MBUF systems represent a highly visible new charge from the perspective of the user, particularly since fuel taxes are embedded in the retail price of motor fuel and effectively hidden from the driver. Since MBUF systems are based on actual use, they are perceived as being unfair to drivers who travel further on a trip-by-trip basis and are therefore charged more per-trip. As such, regardless of how technically and administratively feasible MBUF is in one state, equity concerns will nonetheless have to be evaluated and addressed in each state.


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In a study done by RUC West (a voluntary coalition of 14 western state departments of transportation that are committed to collaborative research and development of a new method for funding transportation infrastructure), they explored the rural and urban impacts of MBUF. The conclusions to date are that while rural drivers tend to drive slightly more miles per day than urban residents, they are generally driving older and less fuel-efficient vehicles than their urban counterparts. Assuming that an MBUF program will credit any paid fuel taxes back to the motorist, most rural drivers may see a positive impact from participating in an MBUF program. Using different rates based on income, average MPG of the vehicle, and/or classification of the driver’s residence (for example, urban, rural, mixed, commercial) may be a future consideration.

One of the biggest concerns expressed by the public is how  data collected on road usage will be protected and that drivers will not be actively monitored or tracked by the government. Recent MBUF pilots have shown mixed results regarding participant satisfaction of how their personal information is protected.

Recommendations to addressing privacy concerns include:  

 

Replacing the fuel tax that has been in place since 1919 with an MBUF is no small feat. The research conducted to date has highlighted three specific implementation hurdles: