RFF on the Issues

RFF on the Issues: Charging Motorists to Drive

Jun 30, 2016 | Shannon Wulf Tregar

Several states along the East Coast are proposing pilot programs to help pay for increasing transportation costs. Specifically, they suggest charging drivers fees per miles traveled, instead of imposing a gasoline tax (as is often done at state and federal levels). Although one poll suggested that such a fee would be "unwaveringly unpopular," it also found that the public was more supportive if the fee varied based on the vehicle's emissions.

RFF’s Margaret Walls, in a previous blog post, suggests that the fee should vary based on congestion. She writes: "On congested highways in urban areas during peak commuting periods, the fee might be substantial but on rural roads and in urban areas during off-peak travel periods, the fee should be zero." She notes that such a fee would help to address the externalities associated with congestion, such as delay costs, extra fuel consumption, pollution, and road impacts.

See more analysis by RFF experts on fuel taxes.