Washington’s Test to Charge By-The-Mile is Complete, Results Are Being Analyzed

More than 2,000 drivers across Washington have turned in the keys and wrapped up their participation in the year-long Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project. The test-driving phase of the pilot began in February 2018 and over the course of 12 months, volunteers had the opportunity to test low-tech to high-tech options for recording miles driven, as well as multiple opportunities to share feedback about their experience.

 

“It’s rare to have such a hands-on experience to test a potential new way to fund our transportation system. I’m thankful to our volunteers for their participation and dedication in helping inform the future of transportation in our state,” said Joe Tortorelli, chair of the WA RUC Steering Committee and member of the Washington State Transportation Commission that is leading this project. “We look forward to learning more about the results from the pilot test drive, which will influence the commission’s final report and recommendations to the governor, legislature and U.S. Department of Transportation.”

The pilot’s primary goal was to test a potential new system to replace Washington’s gas tax, as cars become more and more fuel efficient. Additionally, the project was designed to ensure a variety of ways for participants to record miles – from low-tech to high-tech reporting methods – as well as to enable active feedback from participants on their experience. Participants were able to choose one of five methods to record their miles and were asked to periodically review mock invoices that compared how much they would pay under a road usage charge system compared to the current gas tax.

A road usage charge (RUC) system is a per-mile charge drivers would pay based on how many miles you drive, not how much gas you consume. This approach is similar to how people pay for their utilities, including electricity or water. The WA RUC Pilot Project tested a mock 2.4-cent-per-mile road usage charge for light-weight, non-commercial vehicles including gasoline-fueled, hybrid, and electric vehicles.

Collectively, the project’s 2,000-plus test drivers reported 16 million miles driven statewide, sent in over 1,000 emails or phone calls and participated in three surveys. Participants sounded off on a variety of topics including privacy and data collection, compliance and administrative costs, fairness and equity, travel between states, and operational viability.

Given the numbers provided in the story, the state would have collected $384,000 from the beta testers. That’s an average of $192 per person in that first year if there were exactly 2,000 testers instead of ‘2,000-plus.’

With the test-driving phase complete, the WSTC will work with the WA RUC Steering Committee to review and analyze the data and volunteer feedback collected during the pilot. Findings and recommendations will be presented to the governor, legislature and USDOT in early 2020.