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Let there be RUC T

he June/July Issue of Thinking Highways North America contained Lee Armstrong’s article, ‘Guilty as Charged’ that criticized Road Usage Charging (RUC)

or Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fees and in particular Mat- thew Dorfman’s article ‘For Those About to RUC We Salute You’ from the same magazine’s March/April issue. We are pleased this subject has received so much atten-

tion and are grateful for the opportunity to respond to Mr. Armstrong’s points, which included several misconceptions and myths about the Road Usage Charging programs emerg- ing around the world.1 to his article:

We offer the following counterpoints

1.A growing number of individuals and interest groups sup- port RUC.

2. The primary reason to transition to RUC is to provide sustainable road funding before the transition to high effi- ciency and alternative fuel vehicles bankrupts the system.

3.Adjusting the gas tax for inflation will not solve the current and future infrastructure funding problem.

4. Raising fuel taxes to provide sustainable funding and improve environmental impacts of auto use is an inher- ently self-contradictory policy.

5.Diverse, affordable, flexible, adaptable off-the-shelf tech- nologies for RUC exist today.

6. If implemented wisely, the cost of collection for RUC could be competitive with fuel taxes.

7. Those who will profit most from RUC are road users.

To clarify misconceptions about RUC promoted by Mr. Armstrong and others, we will demonstrate the veracity of these seven points.

1. A growing number of individuals and interest groups support Road Usage Charging Lee Armstrong states that supporters of RUC fall into two groups: “politicians who would do anything to avoid being labeled as supporting tax increases,” and “companies that stand to profit from such a change in tax collection.” While some policy debates warrant such cynicism, we believe this assertion is baseless and false. The truth is that many individuals support RUC because

they believe it to be the best way to provide sustainable fund- ing for infrastructure, not because they are afraid of taxes


The Musketeers parry Lee Armstrong’s article in Thinking Highways’ June/July issue. By Jack Opiola, Steve Morello, Travis Dunn and Matthew Dorfman

or because they stand to benefit personally. Politicians from across the spectrum, and other stakeholders and groups have studied RUC. In addition, there are several think tanks that remain supportive of the general concept, such as the Rea- son Foundation, and that support also comes from those who argue about road user charging being more economi- cally rational. The idea that roads should be more like utili- ties where people pay for a service, and have expectations of service quality, has support from many transport econo- mists. Among those who support its continued study and testing toward implementation are: • American Automobile Association (AAA) • Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers • American Civil Liberties Union (Oregon chapter) • Several State Departments of Transportation (Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and others) and • National Council of State Legislatures

We believe this partial list of supporters dispels Mr. Arm- strong’s assertion that only timid politicians and self-inter- ested individuals support RUC. Members of these groups have supported necessary tax increases in the past and a sus- tainable transportation funding policy in the future.

2. The primary reason to transition to RUC is to provide sustainable road funding before the transition to high efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles bankrupts the system Road construction and maintenance in the United States are funded primarily by fuel taxes, and thus reliant on fuel consumption. As fuel consumption declines both in aggre- gate and on a per-mile basis, new sources of funding must be found. Mr. Armstrong agrees with this, but believes it will be over a decade before there are sufficient electric and hybrid vehicles to justify a new revenue source. We strongly disa- gree. The transition to RUC should begin now. The primary reason to start the transition to RUC now

is to keep infrastructure revenues on pace with the rapid increase in fuel efficiency of internal combustion engine vehicles, an increase that began in 2008 after two decades of stagnation. Recent improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, documented by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), show that the average sales- weighted mpg increased for first time in 20 years starting in Vol 8 No 3 North America

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