As America's road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.
The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America's major roads.
The usually dull arena of highway planning has suddenly spawned intense debate and colorful alliances. Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.
Why, oh why do I have to keep reposting this (originally posted May 8, 2007)?
And please, oh please, read all the way to the end before dismissing my plan as too complicated. The ending is ironic (I highlighted that part below in case you want to skip to the interesting parts).
Mr. President, please call me if you would like to discuss.
I hesitate to bring this up with gas prices being what they are now, but I think what I'm about to say is relevant.
I seem to be getting a lot of comments lately that much of the gas consumption/ high gas price problem could be solved if the greedy sumsabitches who drive big honkin' SUVs were forced to pay a gas guzzler tax. So I have a proposal--I'll call it a fuel efficiency payment. Here's how it works: All cars are subject to an annual fee based on miles driven. The fee will be per mile driven and will be inversely proportional to the EPA calculated city fuel efficiency figure. Keep reading for details...
Here's how it would work. Each year, drivers will be required to have their mileage checked at an authorized service facility. Based on the EPA certified city fuel efficiency rating provided by the EPA for the specific type of car, the car owner will pay a fee (call it F) per mile driven. The fee will be equal to the inverse of the EPA fuel efficiency figure.
So consider two car types: a gas guzzler (GG) and a fuel efficient car (FE). Suppose the gas guzzler has an EPA MPG rating of 15 mpg city and the FE car has a rating of 35 mpg city. The per mile fuel efficiency payment for the gas guzzler will be $0.067 per mile drive (1/15) and the per mile fuel efficiency payment for the fuel efficient car will be $0.029 per mile driven. If a driver of each type of car drives 12,000 miles a year, the GG driver will pay an annual fee of $804, and the FE driver will pay an annual fee of $348.
The Fuel Efficiency Payment has a couple of nice features:
1) It places a higher burden on those driving less fuel efficient vehicles--that should satisfy those blaming the SUV drivers for all of the problems*.
2) It places a higher burden on those driving more. By increasing the marginal cost per mile driven, total miles driven should decrease.
3) Assuming fuel efficiency and income are negatively correlated--that is, the rich tend to drive larger, more expensive, less fuel efficient cars--the Fuel Efficiency Payment places a higher burden on higher incomes.
4) It provides an incentive for drivers to switch to more fuel efficient vehicles.
Now that I've hopefully convinced you that a fuel efficiency payment will act as a type of gas guzzler tax that would be less of a burden on lower income drivers, would provide incentives for decreasing miles driven and would encourage a switch to more fuel efficient vehicles, I'd like to point out that the fuel efficiency payment is algebraically identical to a $1/gallon GAS TAX** that many economics including John and me think would go a long way toward solving many of the transportation related externalities.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I am a gas guzzling SUV driving suburban commuter. In short, I am the problem. Why you may ask, would I stoop to such low moral standards? Easy, I have 3 kids and a lot of sports equipment. Try fitting 3 kids and a team's softball equipment in the trunk of a Prius. Oh, and the SUV was a great deal.
**Multiplying the FEE=$(1/(miles/gallon)) by miles driven gives $Fee*miles=$1/gallon.