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Project

#331 Development of a Mileage Based User Fee Funding and Deployment Planner for State Transportation Funding Agencies


Principal Investigator
H. Scott Matthews
Status
Overdue Project
Start Date
July 1, 2020
End Date
June 30, 2021
Research Type
Applied
Grant Type
Research
Grant Program
FAST Act - Mobility National (2016 - 2022)
Grant Cycle
2020 Mobility21 UTC
Visibility
Public

Abstract

Due to shortfalls in fuel taxes and increases in fleetwide fuel economy, states are looking for new ways to fund transportation project needs. A common proposal is to transition to mileage-based user fees (MBUFs). We will leverage data on historical highway construction and funding to create a decision support tool incorporating data on demographics, vehicle use, and roadway types. State transportation funding agencies can use this tool to assess the effectiveness of various MBUF strategies over time.     
Description
Since being introduced in 1932, gasoline taxes have been the primary means of funding the U.S. road network. The federal fuel tax has been stagnant for nearly three decades ($0.185/gal since 1993), and has not been adjusted for increases in construction and maintenance costs despite a 240% increase in the construction cost index in that time (RS Means 2019). The significant decline in the purchasing power of fuel taxes has been compounded by more efficient (and electric) vehicles, which effectively pay lower (or no) taxes per mile driven (Dumortier, Zhang, & Marron, 2017). More recently, state transportation agencies have begun to depend more significantly on other revenue sources (tolls, general taxes, etc.,) to fund the development and maintenance of roadways and other transportation infrastructure. As a result, roadway funding has been increasingly inadequate across the country, with the federal Highway Trust Fund also being severely underfunded (Varn, 2019). Several concerns have been raised around the lower funding levels, most notably that it may lead to deferred or delayed maintenance, which would in turn lead to reduced safety, and lower resilience of infrastructure over time. Numerous alternatives have been proposed to fund this gap, such as higher vehicle registration fees, mileage-based fees (i.e., a tax per mile rather than per gallon), which may even be tuned based on highway income and spatial equity (Zhang, McMullen, & Valluri, 2009; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2012).

Given the diversity in vehicle fleets and usage patterns, in addition to population demographics across the United States, this study hypothesizes that reduced highway funding disproportionally affects specific geographic areas or population groups (Barbieri & Edward, 2017). This study proposes to identify these patterns and propose an equitable framework for increasing transportation revenue (through broad adoption of a substitute mileage-based user fee). This project is therefore divided into two parts.

In the first part, we propose to use historical information from sources including the U.S. Census and the Department of Transportation’s annual ‘Highway Facts’ datasets to develop county-wise assessments of roadway funding per mile for various types of roadways (urban roads, state and federal highways, etc.), and the funding sources for these. We intend to assess the historical shift in the amount of available funding, as well as in the sources of these funds. By overlaying these estimates with population data, we intend to assess long-term trends, as well as inequities in the availability of adequate roadway funding. These trends and estimates may inform numerous facets of transportation and infrastructure policy at the local, state and federal level.

The second part is to apply these insights to model an equitable mileage-based user fee system, which incorporates driving patterns, vehicle fleet information, and other demographic information, allowing governments at the state or federal level to calculate optimal fee structures for their transportation infrastructure needs. For example, a state could apply the model to assess not only the likely requirement to maintain and develop their roadways in the future, but also assess the effectiveness of various mileage-based user fee scenarios (e.g., fees as a function of vehicle age, or family income, or simply a flat fee), at equitably raising the required funds. 

In conducting this research, we will work with relevant partners in the technology and engineering consulting industries to provide a key decision support tool that will be critical for states to understand the historical funding needs and how MBUFs can help with the transition away from fuel taxes. By making an open and accessible system, we can ensure equity and accountability in government. 
    
Timeline
Summer (July-Sept) 2020: Historical data collection, extraction and analysis
Fall (Sept-Nov) 2020: Development of county-wise assessment of transportation infrastructure funding gap.
Winter (Nov 2020 - Mar 2021): Development of model to assess mileage-based user fees scenarios.
Mar-June 2021: Project documentation and report writing.
    
Deployment Plan
The primary work in this project will be to develop the insights needed to create the system in the future. Thus much of the work will involve non-deployment activities, such as data analytics and construction of a finance/policy model. Through interaction with planned agency, technology, and industry partners, we expect to receive the most relevant insights that will make the project successful. 

However we anticipate that as a proof-of-concept, upon development of the model, we will be able to demonstrate to a state agency (via virtual or in-person presentations) how they can apply mileage-based user fees in the future. We expect to work with Azuga (a connected vehicles technology company that has been partnering with the I-95 coalition of states to provide mileage tracking technology for pilot projects), Jacobs (an engineering consulting firm that has acted as project lead in such studies), and state DOTs such as PennDOT and Wash DC DOT.  Negotiations for support are ongoing. Note that we had hoped to work with the I-95 Coalition NGO directly, but we would need to be a consortium member (at a cost of $10k per year) to be invited to participate in their projects.  We have thus made contacts via their membership list in this project.
    
Expected Accomplishments and Metrics
Key accomplishments and deliverables for this project include:
* Data collection and cleaning of historical highway construction and funding information, in addition to population and demographic statistics.
* Assessment of historical changes in roadway funding, trends in funding sources, and forecasts of present and future funding gaps.
* Creation of model to simulate numerous potential mileage-based user fee systems and scenarios, and assess equitable means for the collection of transportation revenue. 
* Project Documentation and Report Writing
* Proof of Concept presentation/model    
    

Individuals Involved

Email Name Affiliation Role Position
acharyap@cmu.edu Acharya, Prithvi EPP Other Student - PhD
hsm@alumni.cmu.edu Matthews, H. Scott CEE/EPP PI Faculty - Tenured

Budget

Amount of UTC Funds Awarded
$90000.00
Total Project Budget (from all funding sources)
$90000.00

Documents

Type Name Uploaded
Data Management Plan Data_management_Plan_for_Mobility21_VMT_2020.docx Jan. 2, 2020, 7:55 p.m.
Publication TRBAM-S-20-01947.pdf Dec. 12, 2020, 10 a.m.
Progress Report 331_Progress_Report_2020-09-30 Dec. 12, 2020, 10 a.m.
Presentation 2020_Deployment_Partner_Poster_qj4rVp7.pptx May 15, 2021, 2:38 p.m.
Presentation TRB_2021_Poster_Presentation_of_Leveraging_Data_Paper.pptx May 15, 2021, 2:38 p.m.
Presentation TRB_2021_MBUF_Subcomm_Meeting_Summary_Presentation.pptx May 15, 2021, 2:38 p.m.
Progress Report 331_Progress_Report_2021-03-31 May 17, 2021, 8:59 a.m.

Match Sources

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Partners

Name Type
Azuga Deployment Partner Deployment Partner
Mileage Based User Fee Alliance (MBUFA) Deployment Partner Deployment Partner