Improving Long-rang Planning Models for Feasibility Analysis of Mileage-based User Fees as an Alternative Revenue Stream

​Mileage-based user fee (MBUF), also referred to as vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax or road user charge, charge a traveler a fixed or variable rate per mile traveled on the road. Analyses across pilot programs have shown that a simple rate of 1.5—1.8 cents per mile will generate enough revenue that matches the current motor fuel tax revenue in the state of North Carolina, and for a recommended range of 2 cents to 4 cents per mile, the state can make higher revenue matching the projected costs for maintenance and improvement of transportation infrastructures in the future. While the implementation of MBUF and its execution are being practically investigated through pilot programs and through an evaluation of public perception towards these fees, there is a need for systematic evaluation of the long-term impacts of MBUF rates incorporating behavioral changes, differential impacts across population groups, and emerging technologies. The primary issue needing investigation involves quantifying the long-term impacts of MBUF pricing on traffic congestion and generated revenues, incorporating the anticipated changes in travel patterns of individuals and goods. The issue is highly relevant as it will inform the design and update of current and future MBUF pilot programs in the state and will be critical as the state considers alternate funding mechanisms for the long term given the increasing number of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). Furthermore, recent statewide executive orders (EO#80 and EO#246) have identified the importance of understanding the impact of travel as a means of studying the reduction in greenhouse gases and creating a ZEV plan across the state by 2025. This study will contribute toward these goals by integrating MBUF implementations and quantifying MBUF’s impacts on travel, revenues, and environmental emissions. The goal of this applied research is to improve the current statewide planning models for investigating the long-term impacts of mileage-based user fees. The research proposes to address this goal through (a) conducting a stated preference survey for estimating model parameters associated with MBUFs, (b) developing a methodology for explicitly incorporating MBUF in the long-term planning process, and (c) quantifying the impacts of MBUF under different implementation scenarios. Based on the findings from this study, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will be able to adapt the procedures in the current transportation planning process (such as model parameters) accounting for additional cost structures posed by MBUFs. The conducted analysis will also cooperatively benefit the ongoing pilot programs in North Carolina and other states. Broadly, the proposed project will contribute toward NCDOT’s mission of delivering and maintaining transportation infrastructure effectively and efficiently by enabling revenue and equity evaluation of different MBUF implementation scenarios. The project will also serve the underserved communities through early identification of potential long-term equity issues with future MBUF policies and will enable the use of MBUF as a leverage to create more climate-friendly driving patterns and consumer choice of vehicles (such as short distance driving and purchase of electric vehicles).