Should California charge for driving on roads?

January 19, 2016


California drivers are bearing the burden of the state’s transportation funding crisis, with the average driver spending more than $500 a year to repair the wear and tear on their vehicle caused by bad roads. Gas tax revenues currently fund most of the state’s road maintenance and repairs, but gas tax revenues are declining as cars become more fuel efficient and as drivers adopt hybrids and electric vehicles. Caltrans estimates the funding gap to be about $5.7 billion per year for the state highway system alone.

Unless we address the transportation funding shortfall immediately, the funding gap will only widen. Lawmakers are working on a short-term solution to maintain our roadways and we will have to depend on the gas tax for the immediate future.  However, gas tax revenues will continue to fall behind our transportation funding needs over the longer term.  We must ultimately find a new transportation funding model that better reflects today’s realities.

One potential solution is the road charge. Under a road charge system, drivers pay by the mile rather than by the gallon. Whether you drive a gas-guzzling truck or an all-electric sedan, the road charge is the same per mile. Everyone pays their fair share. Several other states are already testing the road charge concept, and we must explore it further in California to determine if it is the right solution for us.

The state has already taken steps to begin exploring a road charge system. Senate Bill (SB) 1077, signed into law last year, requires California to study the feasibility of a road charge in a statewide pilot that includes a variety of volunteers from all regions of the state. To help ensure the parameters of the pilot meet California’s unique needs, SB 1077 also established a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to design the pilot with the benefit of robust public input. The TAC includes experts in telecommunications, data security and privacy, as well as highway users, business and consumer advocates, elected officials and academic researchers.

In 2015 the TAC conducted a robust stakeholder outreach process to seek feedback and input on the design of the pilot. The TAC held 12 public meetings throughout California and invited residents all over the state to attend a meeting or comment through the TAC’s website. Additionally, the TAC invited over 400 stakeholder groups and 130 elected officials to participate in the process, and it consulted a Road Charge Work Group made up of representatives from local government, vehicle manufacturers, fuel distributors and highway users.

After carefully reviewing all of the feedback and input gathered, the TAC released its final recommendations for the design of the pilot in early January. Some of the highlights of those recommendations are that the pilot should:

·         Give drivers multiple options to report miles driven

·         Provide non-technological options for those who choose to report their miles manually

·         Protect driver privacy and personal data

·         Measure the impact of a road charge on rural and urban drivers

·         Require no cost to participate

The pilot is now scheduled to launch this summer and aims to recruit 5,000 participants that reflect the geographic, demographic and socioeconomic diversity of the state.

Because it has been rigorous, this endeavor gave us the opportunity to carefully examine and develop a set of recommendations that reflect the unique nature of our state. While we know the current gas tax system will not keep pace with state and national needs in the future, we also know the development and implementation of a sustainable long-term solution will take time to deliver. That is why we should all do our part by signing up for the pilot. Together, we can help the state determine if paying by the mile is the right transportation funding solution for California.

For more information visit

Jim Madaffer is the Chair of the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee and a member of the California Transportation Commission.


so for years we were told we needed to get more efficient cars to fight “climate change.”

now you’re advocating penalizing us for doing what you asked us to do. are you going to abolish the gas tax? doubt it.

sorry to invoke a tired platitude but we don’t have an income problem, we have a spending problem.


Leave it to government scum. With income tax, sales tax, property tax, payroll tax, they currently confiscate about 60 cents from every dollar earned. They won’t be happy until they take it all.

You didn’t build that! Indeed.


Gas taxes were meant for roads and highways. We have already paid for the roads and highways. Quit spending gasoline tax money on bike paths, hiking trails, mass transit, and rail. Before you let Sacramento or Washington charge you one more penny you should ask them to provide a current breakdown of where every single penny of your gasoline taxes goes. An honest audit would provide some eye opening information, if you’re willing to open your eyes.


Our transportation monies are being used for bike lanes and to support ride share,city buses and so on,it has been robbed so many times that it leaks like a sieve and these people want more, go take a hike.

If you notice on Hwy 46 east if you drive it that before the lateest construction started that all the fences were way back off of the hwy,this was done in the 60’s to start the project to widen the hwy,guess what happened to that money,welfare came into play and sucked the money out of that fund,it happens all the time these people we elect have no idea what it takes to do the job and many of those hired don’t know either, the state hires people from other countrys to work in the offices of Cal Trans and or road inspectors they are as useless as they come, they have no idea on construction methods and can barley understand the cal trans book, this is where our transportation money goes also.

We the TAXPAYER are getting tired of paying for all of this and getting nothing in return.

Mr. Holly

This is really a pretty simple fix without creating a another government nightmare program. Just add the lost gasoline tax onto the electric devices that are used on electric cars. Bingo, it’s done and nothing has changed or had to be created.


Hell no! Use the money California is diverting to waste and fraud. Use the money that’s supposed to go to highways. Use the money being stolen for cronyism. Hell no.


Don’t worry the California Super Train is speeding to the rescue…


“California drivers are bearing the burden of the state’s transportation funding crisis”

Brown won reelection; I guess CA drivers are cool with it…

funding crisis

funding crisis

funding crisis

funding crisis


The person who will always win elections is now the person who will give bums the most from the public dole. Why do you think politicians want a permanent underclass. The do nothing’s outnumber the taxpayers by a margin of 2 to 1 in this state.

Their scheme will work until we all throw in the towel.


One solution to the problem would be for bicycle riders to be licensed and taxed for all of the money spent on bicycle lanes in this state. These people are getting a free ride while the rest of us who pay the taxes can’t get the streets paved! There’s no reason that people who use bicycles should get a free ride.