The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced the successful completion of its Road Usage Charge Pilot Program (RUCPP) research study, which investigated how a pay-by-mile system compares to the current gas tax, as well as its feasibility in the state.
The RUCPP Pilot Program represented Colorado’s first pilot test of the road-usage-charge (RUC) concept and was initiated as CDOT is facing a nearly US$1bn annual funding shortfall over the next 10 years. The agency is exploring transportation funding alternatives, as the gas tax is unable to meet the infrastructure investment needs of the transportation system due to decreased purchasing power, a growing population, and more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles. This pilot was one of the first steps in an extensive process of evaluating the concept. CDOT has been awarded a US$500,000 federal grant for a second pilot, to begin in late 2018, to research and address issues identified in the initial study.
The first four-month pilot included 150 participants from 27 different counties across Colorado, from cities to towns, mountains to plains, ranging from individuals with less fuel-efficient cars and trucks, to those with hybrid and electric vehicles. The pilot allowed drivers of different vehicle types to choose how they reported their mileage, and to compare what they would pay under a RUC versus the current gas tax. CDOT developed several goals to gauge the success of the pilot, including its ability to:
Demonstrate an operational RUC; Identify and evaluate policy issues, such as how drivers crossing state lines (out-of-state drivers) would be handled, and drivers using private roads; Test the feasibility of various mileage-reporting choices, which included manual reporting, GPS- and non-GPS-enabled mileage-reporting devices; Solicit feedback and ideas about participant experiences.
While money was not exchanged in this pilot, the study showed that:
91% of participants would take part in a future pilot, and reported high satisfaction with all aspects of the program; 70% chose the GPS-enabled mileage-reporting option, and were much more satisfied with their choice (93%) than those who had opted for odometer reading (55%); 88% felt their personal information was secure during the pilot; 73% felt the amount they would have owed in RUCs was the same or less than expected; 81% agreed that a RUC is a fair funding method.
Tim Kirby, manager of CDOT’s metropolitan planning organizations regional section, commented, “This gave us a lot of insightful data and meaningful feedback from pilot participants. We are looking forward to expanding pilot activities as we convene a diverse group of stakeholders to continue to explore the viability of RUC to keep goods and people moving across the state.”