San Francisco transportation officials are proposing drivers pay a mileage tax as a way to fund road construction and surface repair projects. The commission says it’s going to be a hard sell, but if implemented, it could leave taxpayers steaming.
Proposed mileage tax
The proposal would require drivers in the Bay Area to install GPS-like devices in their vehicles to track and record their mileage. They would then be assessed a tax, possibly at a rate as high as $0.10 per mile. At that rate, transit officials estimate, the average Bay Area driver would pay around $1,300 a year.
Officials say that low-income vehicle owners would be exempted from paying the tax.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments approved further study of the proposed Vehicle Miles Traveled tax, or VMT, on July 19.
Thinning the herd
The proposed tax would be used to “thin the herd,” reducing traffic congestion and pollution, as well as to fund infrastructure construction and repair projects.
Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said:
“Whether or not we do it with gas tax, sales tax, or a vehicle miles travel fee, something needs to be done. Or we can watch these roads turn to gravel roads.”
According to the Mercury News, the tax could raise an estimated $15 million a year for Bay Area highways.
A hard sell
Transportation officials acknowledge, however, that, because of expected resistance from residents, as well as the expense of installing the tracking devices, the implementing the tax is a long shot. Even if approved, officials say, the tax could take up to a decade to launch.
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In response to arguments that the tracking devices are an invasion of privacy, Rentschler said:
“The last thing we’re interested in is where you go and what you do. What we’re trying to do is get people to figure out a way to raise revenue that they could support.”
A broader plan
The proposed tax is part of a 25-year plan to address the impact of an estimated 2.1 million new residents on the environment and the infrastructure. Other ideas discussed were creating more public transportation choices, raising the rate of bridge tolls and opening more carpool lanes.
The tax and other proposed measures will be put to a vote next April.
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