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PennDOT Pathways: Potential Funding Solutions

Mileage-Based, Road User Fees

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Much of our current funding comes from federal and state gas taxes. While this model worked well in the past, highly fuel-efficient vehicles and the increased adoption of electric vehicles by manufacturers and the public alike have made it unsustainable. PennDOT is taking action to find reliable sources of funding through the PennDOT Pathways program.

One such source is the Mileage-Based User Fee, or MBUF.

What is a Mileage-Based User Fee?

Mileage Based User Fee (MBUF), also known as a "Road User Fees (RUF)," "Road User Charges (RUC)," or "Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)"" fees, generally refers to charging drivers for the use of roadways by the number of miles they travel. They differ from other funding mechanisms in that there may be a flat annual fee as with RUF or they may use technology, such as GPS, to record the number of miles driven. It's important to note here that this technology does not track where you are, were or are going as some think.

MBUF is among several strategies that were described in the Planning and Environmental Linkages study that identified and evaluated near- and long-term alternative funding solutions as part of PennDOT's Pathways program. This approach has been studied in multiple states as a viable and equitable way to replace the gas tax. Simply put: With an MBUF model, you pay for what you use.

Pilot Project: The Eastern Transportation Coalition

Map of the eastern United States with al of the East Coast highlighted as states traveled by participants of the Eastern Transportation Coalition. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina are highlighted as partner states.

Pennsylvania is a member of The Eastern Transportation Coalition. The Coalition, formerly known as the I-95 Corridor Coalition, is a partnership of 17 states and the District of Columbia that is advancing the national conversation around mileage-based user fees through real-world pilot programs, education, and outreach.

Pennsylvania was recently featured in a study. The unique characteristics of the Eastern U.S. — such as significant cross-state travel, numerous toll facilities, and several major truck corridors — make it a natural testing ground for the potential challenges of implementing a MBUF system nationally.

The Coalition is neutral regarding MBUF as the ultimate solution for transportation funding but wants to ensure the voices of citizens along the Eastern U.S. are part of the national discussion.

Click here to access its most recent study and findings.

What Are Others Saying About MBUF?

TROC Report

The Transportation Revenue Options Committee reported in 2021 that MBUF presently appears to be among the best long-term funding solutions for Pennsylvania, and likely for all or most states.

Strengths/Benefits

MBUF nationally is assumed to be the long-term likely direction for the necessary restructuring of transportation funding.

  • Provides the ultimate replacement for the phasing-out of the gas tax.
  • Leverages technology, which is a great driver of change for all of transportation.
  • Is a revenue mechanism based directly on the use of the transportation system.
  • Could encourage some carpooling to lower the cost-per-passenger per mile.
  • Assumed to be flexible across transportation modes.

Potential Concerns

  • MBUF is not yet a certainty, even for Phase 3 (which is why other proposed sources should be implemented and could stay in place if MBUF does not occur).
  • A perception of public resistance to the tracking associated with MBUF. However, the ETC's pilots have found that privacy concerns decrease after exposure to and education on the MBUF technology.
  • Depends extensively on federal leadership and implementation coordinated with neighboring states.

The TROC report proposed a long-term Commonwealth commitment to positioning and preparing for MBUF by vigorously encouraging supportive federal action, raising public awareness and support, and beginning to lay the groundwork for the technological and other implementation components. (Source: Report | Transportation Revenue Options Commission (pa.gov))