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Road Usage Charge: Are You Ready to Pay for Each Mile You Drive on California Roads?

Shailesh Chandra

Not many Californianís know that the maintenance and construction of California roads requires funds that actually come from a tax (known as gas tax or fuel tax) charged on the gasoline bought and filled in vehicles at gas stations.

Gas tax collected as part of general fuel refilling at pump stations has been the primary source of funding for maintenance and upkeep of the transportation infrastructure in California for several years. With a significant increase in fuel-efficient vehicles needing less gas, as well as electric and hybrid vehicles, on California roads in recent years, revenue collection through gas tax is shrinking drastically. Thus, vehicles of today are contributing to additional stress of the existing transportation infrastructure and causing long-term wear and tear to California roads without fairly paying for the damage and repair.

A Road Usage Charge (RUC), as a mileage-based alternative revenue mechanism, has the potential to offset urgent funding needs for the upkeep of both new and old transportation infrastructures in California. Thus, users of the road in a RUC system pay per mile they drive.

Cars on a California Highway

My on-going research, funded by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), covers various RUC domains of importance to California, and it will serve as a valuable reference guide for Caltrans for any future mandatory RUC implementation in the state. This research aims to supplement the findings from the recently concluded pilot program in California that highlighted tremendous potential for use of available technologies, smartphone applications and methods under the Road Charge System deployment plan.

In essence, my research has been to help facilitate Californiaís RUC program that is understandable, simple, secure, fair, and, flexible for road users and, easy to implement, easily trackable (in case of defaulting and wrong reporting), easily enforceable (in case of payment evasions), and cost effective for Caltrans.

Therefore, if you are reading this article and beginning to wonder how you might be opting to pay for using California roads under the new RUC program, begin with locating your carís OBD II port. You might be surprised of its location and it often remains unnoticed by most drivers. It is a port just above the gas pedal in most cars and works exactly like a USB port needing a plug-in device ready to record your carís tire rotations!

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