Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project

Test Drive the Road Ahead

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FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS ON ROAD USAGE CHARGING SENT TO STATE LEGISLATURE

 

On January 13, 2020, the Washington State Transportation Commission transmitted their final report on how Washington can begin a transition away from the state gas tax and toward a road usage charge system to the Governor, State Legislature and the Federal Highway Administration. Learn more and read the report.

 

 

WASHINGTON STATE TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION ADOPTS RECOMMENDATIONS ON ROAD USAGE CHARGING

 

In December 2019, The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) adopted recommendations on how Washington can begin a gradual transition away from the state gas tax and toward a road usage charge system. The commission based its recommendations on extensive research, statewide public engagement and detailed analysis of the participant feedback and system performance of the 12-month Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project. The adopted recommendations will be transmitted to the Washington State Legislature, Governor Jay Inslee and the Federal Highway Administration in January 2020.

 

Summary of WSTC WA RUC recommendations

Transitioning to a RUC

  • Take a slow and gradual approach to introducing road usage charging (RUC) in Washington, including a start-up phase to help inform a transition plan before there is broad, fleetwide adoption in the future.
  • A start-up phase should include vehicles that pay little or no gas tax: plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, which currently pay flat annual fees regardless of miles driven. This will allow the state to continue to develop and test a RUC for at least five years before considering fleetwide implementation.
  • Include state-owned vehicles in the start-up phase to test:
    • New approaches to privacy protection
    • RUC compliance and enforcement
    • Travel between states
    • Opportunities to reduce operational costs
    • Improving the driver experience in transition away from the gas tax

Key state policies and considerations needed for a RUC system

  • Implement privacy protection measures in state law specific to a RUC system.
  • Restrict RUC revenues to highway-related expenditures by making RUC subject to the 18th Amendment of the Washington Constitution.
  • Current programs that receive gas tax refunds for non-highway activities should continue receiving their same share of funding during the transitional period to RUC.

Continue researching key topics over the next couple of years

  • Assess potential equity impacts of RUC on communities of color, low-income households, rural communities, vulnerable populations, and displaced communities.
  • Continue assessing RUC on a broader scale including testing new mileage reporting options, assessing different approaches to RUC rate-setting and how to maximize compliance.
  • In collaboration with other states, conduct additional research on different approaches to reducing administrative and operational costs of RUC, assess how RUC would be applied efficiently to cross-border travel and assess compliance gaps and potential enforcement measures.

Read the WSTC recommendations


WHAT IS THE WASHINGTON ROAD USAGE CHARGE PILOT PROJECT?

 

Washington has been exploring a potential gas tax replacement to fund our roads and bridges. Conducted by the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC), the test-driving phase of the Washington Road Usage Charge (WA RUC) Pilot Project ended in January 2019. Approximately 2,000 drivers participated in the year-long WA RUC Pilot Project, reported their mileage, and provided feedback to help state decision-makers understand if this potential policy could work for Washington drivers.


Take a peek into the driver’s seat of the Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project

About halfway through the pilot, a handful of diverse participants hailing from all around the state opted to share their experiences on camera via in-person interviews. In the resulting “Participant Experience” video, the project team compiled this feedback to share a snapshot of what participation in the pilot looked like. Participants shared their experience with joining the pilot project, recording their miles and their key takeaways from the project.


WHY TEST A ROAD USAGE CHARGE?

The challenge

Did you know that the current gas tax of 49.4 cents per gallon is used to fund the state’s roads and bridges? As cars become increasingly more fuel efficient and as more electric vehicles are on the road, gas tax revenue used to support our roads and bridges will decrease more each year. To ensure stable, long-term funding, we need to change the way we pay for our roads.

This informational graphic illustrates that Washington state’s average vehicle fuel efficiency will increase to 35 miles per gallon by 2035

A potential solution

A road usage charge (RUC) system is a per-mile charge drivers would pay based on how many miles you drive, not how much gas you consume. This approach is similar to how people pay for their utilities, including electricity or water. The WA RUC Pilot Project tested a mock 2.4-cent-per-mile road usage charge for light-weight, non-commercial vehicles including gasoline-fueled, hybrid, and electric vehicles.

 

QUESTIONS THE PILOT WILL HELP ANSWER

  • How does a road usage charge work for different drivers throughout the state?
  • How do the different reporting methods tested work for drivers?
  • Will a road usage charge enable us to better fund our transportation system in the future?

Follow Along!

The test-driving phase of the pilot is over, but our work isn’t over yet! As we process all the resulting information and work to submit recommendations to decision makers in early 2020, you can stay looped in by signing up for our email interest list. We’ll send you regular updates on the progress of the pilot study as work moves forward.

Spread the word

Know someone who’d be interested in following along with the pilot? Spread the word!