In addition to providing this comprehensive suite of RUC-related services, WSP also is committed to addressing the many myths that follow the new model.
Bryer highlighted concerns that have been raised by stakeholders for the past decade and which have been addressed by WSP’s RUC pilots.
“There are some persistent issues,” he said. “Who will get to know where I’ve driven? What will they do with that data? Could someone hack into my car through RUC? Can RUC exist with other programs? Can RUC be deployed fairly and cost effectively, while still meeting states’ goals? All of these issues have been examined, mitigated and resolved through our pilots. We know what needs to be done.”
For starters, there are security and privacy concerns of driver data under such a system, but that data is under absolute protection.
“We do not share this data with anyone, including state governments, as we handle the data aggregation and interpretation,” Bryer said. “The relationship between us and the drivers is sacred, and we don’t have any incentives to profit from this data. We want to have a very strong partnership with drivers so that they feel comfortable and safe with us collecting their information.”
Is Road Usage Charging Equitable for Rural Drivers?
Then there are rural drivers who are under the impression that they will be unfairly punished under this taxation program because they need to drive greater distances than urban drivers. But this, too, has been discredited.
“There has been at least a half dozen studies on this specific question, and those studies disproved this and showed that if anything, urban drivers would pay more because while rural drivers may drive further, urban drivers use their vehicles more often,” Bryer said. “We’re currently working with Caltrans to demonstrate in a pilot what we have learned in the studies.”
Additionally, in most cases, rural drivers will find that they pay less than they currently pay through the fuel tax, as a RUC can automatically remove charges on private roads – like farms, ranches or mines – something that is more cumbersome to credit with the motor fuel tax.
Will Transition to Road Usage Charging Be Expensive?
Another concern is the initial cost of establishing an advanced system like RUC.
From an agency perspective, there will be higher cost per dollar of revenue received in the early stages of transitioning to a RUC alternative, which is to be expected when transitioning from a mature system. But as more states and more people transition, the cost of administration will decrease due to economies of scale.
For drivers, states that have conducted pilots or enacted voluntary programs have been very careful to maintain similar costs between RUC amounts and the fuel tax amounts paid by the drivers themselves.
Will I be Paying Twice for Tolling and for RUC?
The issue of paying for general use of roads as well as paying for specific roads has been raised many times.
Anytime drivers use a toll road, they are paying the motor fuel tax for use of all roads as well as an additional fee for the use of the toll road. In most situations, the toll road operator uses only toll revenue for operations and maintenance of the toll facility. So, although gas is still being expended on the toll road, the revenue from the gas tax is used for all state roads.
But why does it have to be this way for RUC?
“One of the key advantages RUC has over fuel taxes is that it can be a much smarter version of collecting use fees,” Bryer said. “Customers can choose to make their RUC location enabled. This means that not only can you avoid paying for the use of private roads, but there could also be an automatic exemption of the RUC while driving on toll roads that don’t receive state revenues.”
“We’ve also been exploring ways that RUC systems can coexist with other revenue programs like tolling, transit, registration and parking to create a simpler way for motorists to plan, reserve and pay for their mobility,” he added.
In other words, a RUC opens up new policy options for interacting with toll facilities in ways the motor fuel tax never could.