SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The California Department of Transportation is looking at getting rid of the state gas tax. Instead, drivers would pay a fee on the number of miles they drive on the road.
“It would be a big change for drivers,” said Vanessa Wiseman, a spokesperson for Caltrans. “Folks need to understand that we’re just studying it right now and seeing if it is going to be an option.”
Back in July, the department started its California Road Pilot Program: It’s a 9-month trial to explore the possibility of taxing miles driven instead of gas purchased. Instead of paying 56 cents per gallon, drivers would pay 1.8 cents per mile.
“I think it’s very straightforward simple approach to an alternative to the gas tax,” said Carl Haack, one of 5,000 Californians volunteering for Caltrans. “Usually I just jump in and drive. I take a picture once a month, they calculate through the website what your gas tax fee would be based on the certain mileage rate.”
“Our current way of financing transportation just isn’t working anymore,” Wiseman said.
In fact, Caltrans has seen a deficit in gas tax revenue since 2002. Wiseman believes it’s mainly because newer fuel-efficient vehicles require less and less gas.
“When that’s the way you finance your roads, you’re having a more and more declining revenue stream,” she said.
Drivers would have three ways to track their mileage: 1) Drivers could purchase a set amount of miles, 2) they could track and report miles on their odometer once a month, or 3) they could have a device installed their car to track their mileage.
“It literally plugs into a port in your car and does all of the work from there,” Wiseman explained.
But driver Elika Bernard told CBS13 she doesn’t like the idea of a device in her car, knowing where she is at all times.
“Aren’t we being tracked enough?” she said. “Isn’t that a problem right now?”
Wiseman says drivers like Bernard would have the option to disable the GPS feature on the device. But program volunteer John Barna said he doesn’t mind an active GPS in his car.
“It’s going really well for me,” he told CBS 13.
And he believes that paying per mile is a smart start to improving California roadways.
“Every day we see what the problem is and we’re frustrated that there isn’t more being done,” he said. “I think this is a way in which drivers can actually do their fair share.”
The pilot program wraps up in March. After that, Caltrans will send their findings to the state legislature, where the change would then be up for a vote.