Caltrans pilot program tests replacing gas tax with charging per mile driven

Rob Hayes Image
Saturday, May 18, 2024
New program to charge drivers based on how much they use CA roads
A new pilot program aims to charge drivers for using the roads based on how much they actually drive.

LOS ANGELES -- California roads are maintained through gas tax revenue, but that's dwindling with the increase in the number of electric vehicles.

A new pilot program aims to charge drivers for using the roads based on how much they actually drive - removing California's gas tax and replace it with a mileage tax instead.

Caltrans spokesperson Lauren Prehoda said maintaining roadways costs around between $8 billion to $9 billion a year with the vast majority of the funds coming from California's gas taxes, which are collected every time a driver fills their gas tank.

According to Caltrans, California now has more than 1.2 million hybrid or electric vehicles registered in the state, which means gas tax revenues are falling.

"On average, Californians pay about $300 a year in state gas taxes," Prehoda said. "EVs have a $100 (annual) registration fee... that's a $200 million a year loss."

To bridge that gap, Caltrans is proposing what it calls the California Road Charge, which would tax drivers on the number of miles they drive.

Mileage could be tracked by plugging an electronic device into a vehicle, using a vehicle's built-in tracking system or by simply submitting photos of the vehicle's odometer, according to Caltrans

"Everyone has different levels of comfort when we're managing our data between efficiency and privacy, and that's why it's really important to have options from low tech to high tech," Prehoda said.

Caltrans will start a six-month pilot program in June, designed to test the Road Charge program. Volunteers can sign up to have their miles tracked, fill out some surveys and earn up to $400 for taking part.

It's up to the state Legislature to decide if the Road Charge should actually replace the gas tax.