Localize – Empower local communities by decentralizing authority and revenue collection and allocating funds based on local needs.
Shift more transportation planning and taxing authority to counties. North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that use state funds to maintain secondary roads. State-level planning is inefficient and fails to take advantage of the expertise of municipal planners, who have more intimate knowledge of their local infrastructure needs. Revenues currently raised through transportation-related taxes should follow this devolution of authority.
Raise revenues closer to the point-of-need. The closer we can get to charging people for what they actually use, the less wasteful and costly our transportation system will be. More importantly, it will be fairer, because in our current system some citizens pay more but use less. One option is a model in which third-party technology tracks a vehicle’s road usage. All taxpayers would ultimately benefit from pay-per-use, since the current system builds in unfair subsidies that distort costs, generate waste, and divert road revenue away from taxpayers who need it most (See Box "Pay-per-use Road Pricing Poised to Supplant Gas Taxes").
Enable cross-county cooperation controlled by local citizens. Transportation needs do not stop at county lines, and yet citizens don’t need unaccountable regional bureaucracies. Rural counties should be able to pool resources to complete projects, but the bodies involved should be accountable to voters.
Recognize the unique needs of local areas. Urban areas need congestion relief. Rural areas need road maintenance. New distribution formulas should be crafted to address those needs, rather than treating geographic regions in a one-size-fits-all fashion.
Encourage counties to experiment and innovate. Giving counties block grants would encourage localities to bring their intimate knowledge of the local landscape to bear for improvements, while creating innovation centers for other counties to copy.
Pay-per-Use Road Pricing Poised to Supplant Gas Taxes
In November 2007, the Oregon DOT published results of a one-year pilot of a pay-per-use road pricing system. The report , titled “Oregon’s Mileage Fee Concept and Road User Fee Pilot Program” can be found here.
In the pilot test, Oregon’s DOT equipped 285 volunteers’ vehicles in Portland with on-board GPS systems able to record and upload mileage within a certain time-frame to gadgets attached to pumps at area filling stations. The pilot used filling stations because the Oregon concept calls for a phase-in period, in which vehicles would go on paying motor fuels taxes at the pump, as new vehicles with factory-installed GPS systems would pay mileage fees. Making the filling station the taxation point for all vehicles means no taxes fail to be recorded.
After the year-long pilot, the researchers concluded that the concept is viable. Viability includes: paying the mileage fee at the pump; minimal potential for evasion; and low implementation and administration costs. As we move to a future in which cars use less (or no) fuel, governments need to think of creative ways to collect revenues for public roadways. At the same time, people ought to pay for what they use. The Oregon pilot is a great start.
Back to TABLE of CONTENTS