SAN JOSE, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2015) — With debate continuing about the funding shortfall for U.S. highways, government agencies are looking at various means to raise revenue.
Two methods to address the shortfall are a vehicle fuel tax and a road user charge. But which one will cost more per household? Researchers at the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) have conducted a comparative analysis of the issues. Their peer-reviewed report, “Household Income and Vehicle Fuel Economy in California,” found that the differences are minimal, according to MTI.
The principal investigator was Christopher E. Ferrell, PhD, working with David B. Reinke. The free report can be downloaded by clicking here.
“The current per-gallon fuel tax is no longer keeping up with highway funding needs,” Mr. Ferrell said, “because vehicles can travel much farther on a single gallon of fuel. But it has been difficult to convince voters to increase that tax.
“If revenue were based on a fee per mile traveled, it could be more realistic. But would it be a disadvantage to particular income groups or to those who live in rural areas? That was the basis of our study.”
The MTI report — which includes eight tables illustrating the findings — addresses four primary results from the research:
- Daily household fuel consumption and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) both appear to increase with increasing household income.
- Urban and rural households show roughly the same amount of fuel consumption and VMT.
- Although the researchers found some slight differences in estimated costs over different income groups and rural vs. urban households, they found no statistically significant difference among income groups between a vehicle fuel tax and a road user charge.
- These results are based on sample data and are therefore subject to sampling errors in the data. Fuel efficiency for vehicles of the same make, model, model year and engine type will differ because of several differences, including maintenance, driving cycles, vehicle loads and fuel type — regular vs. premium.