Americans say road user fees are the best way to pay for transportation infrastructure

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According to a new national public opinion survey, nearly 160 million Americans (65%) would support the use of road-usage fee options, such as vehicle miles traveled (VMT) or mileage-based user fees to help fund transportation costs.

The new findings come from the latest ‘America THINKS’ survey conducted by Kelton Global on behalf of international infrastructure consultancy the HNTB Corporation, and demonstrate a significant increase in favorability from a similar survey conducted in 2014 when 50% of respondents said they would support this approach to infrastructure funding. The survey Transportation Mobility 2016 also found that close to 170 million Americans (69%) agree that priced managed lanes should be considered when making improvements to the USA’s highways.

The survey’s findings show that more than half (55%) of Americans believe funding to maintain and build the nation’s infrastructure of local roads bridges and tunnels over the next 10 years should come from increased taxes, including gas taxes (24%), sales taxes (20%) and property taxes (11%) versus user fees (45%). Similarly, for the funding of maintenance, additional lanes and safety improvements for the country’s interstate highways, 56% of Americans would prefer increased taxes, such as federal gas (28%), sales (17%), or property (10%) taxes, over user fees.

The ‘America THINKS’ survey identifies the emergence of significant generational differences in how infrastructure should be funded over the next 10 years. For local infrastructure needs, 68% of millennials (ages 18-34) prefer increased taxes to user fees in lieu of gas taxes, compared to fewer (58%) generation X-ers (ages 35-49), 43% of baby boomers (ages 50-68) or seniors (69+). Another generational difference emerges on connected vehicle technologies, with 73% of 18-49 year olds agreeing that this technology is important, versus 58% of older respondents.

According to the survey, 30% think the most valuable feature of public transportation is that it reduces traffic congestion due to less vehicles being on the road. Again, generational differences emerge, with more baby boomers and seniors than millennials and generation X-ers (38% versus 25%) agreeing that reduced congestion is the best benefit of public transportation. Overall, 31% believe the best way to reduce congestion on roadways is by providing more public transportation choices.

“The growing recognition that new ways are needed to pay the costs of maintaining and building our transportation infrastructure shows Americans understand the fundamental shifts in funding infrastructure are happening,” noted Matthew Click, HNTB’s national director of priced managed lanes and vice president.

“More and more people realize that road-usage fees options, such as vehicle miles traveled or price managed lanes, are needed to fill the gaps resulting from declining ability of federal gas taxes to provide needed funds. Yet, the use of traditional approaches, such as federal gas taxes, sales and property taxes, continue to be favored by certain segments of the population. The differences among younger Americans from their older counterparts in how to fund infrastructure is likely a reflection of their increased reliance on public transit over private automobiles, and a lower rate of home ownership than older Americans.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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