California Driver May Soon Face A “Road Charge”

With California’s roads in desperate need of repair, the state has proposed a potential new solution: the California Road Charge. This idea was proposed as Senate Bill (SB) 1077 last year and allows the state to test how feasible this “Road Charge” would be. The bill also established the Technical Advisory Committee to test this possibility of a road charge and the public’s opinion of it.

What the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is and what it has done

During the past few months, the TAC has held 12 public meeting about a Road Charge throughout the state, contacted every elected official who represents California to ask for feedback on the idea, conducted surveys of the state’s general population’s opinion on the subject, and informed news outlets to ensure word of the TAC and California Road Charge spread to as many people as possible. While the California Road Charge Pilot Program (see below) is a big step forward, the committee, at a minimum, must:

  • Analyze alternative means of collecting road usage data, including at least one alternative that does not rely on electronic vehicle location data
  • Collect a minimum amount of personal information including location tracking information necessary to implement the California road charge program
  • Ensure that processes for collecting, managing, storing, transmitting, and destroying data are in place to protect the integrity of the data and safeguard the privacy of drivers

Why California needs more money for the roadways

ca roadCalifornia imposes a 30 cent tax on gas, currently. However, new cars constantly offer lower mpg and so that tax money is shrinking each year. According to the California Road Charge website, the gas tax earns $2.3 billion dollars for road work each year, which is far from the yearly needed $5.7 billion. With this comes a decreasing budget to fix its roads, many of which are in desperate need for repair. California Road Charge Pilot’s website estimates that the average California driver spends up to $762 repairing his or her car because of damage the roads have caused. The site also claims that 564 of California’s bridges are useless due to their damaged state. With roads not improving and less gas needed, the state needs to find a new solution to make the needed repairs.

California Road Charge Pilot Program

Starting July 2016, this 9-month program’s goal is to help gage how the California Road Charge would work in reality. The 5,000 volunteers (you can sign up here) would serve as test drivers to see the feasibility of the idea. Each participant would need to pick how he or she wishes to monitor their driven miles through the time permit, milage permit, odometer charge, or automated mileage reporting. The results of the Charge Pilot program will help the state decide if the Road Charge is a good or useful avenue to take.

Concerns about the California Road Charge

One of the largest concerns is privacy: how the government will monitor the miles driven remains a large concern for many Californians. The TAC has promised to consider  how to protect a driver’s privacy and personal data and consider ways to gauge miles driven without always reporting to the government the driver’s location. However, as of yet, no one knows how the government would monitor this or what information it would receive from drivers to do so. According to an article from The Press Enterprise, some people have already sprouted major complaints and fears about losing their privacy to this proposed plan.

Another major concern is cost. While the goal is to, in fact, generate more tax revenue, many drivers look unfavorably about having to pay more to drive. People did not like the gas tax and bought more fuel efficient vehicles; therefore some wonder if this program would backfire and cause people to find other modes of transportation instead, cutting down on the state’s revenue once again.

Californians also wonder if they will have to fork over a Road Charge tax on top of the gas tax. To address this concern, the TAC simply replied with “if approved, a road charge program could replace the existing gas tax,”, which means having to pay both is a serious possibility. There is no denying California’s need for better roads; however, the question still remains if whether or not the Road Charge is the right path to follow.

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