We need political champions at all levels of government to make RUC a reality. Public acceptance of RUC will depend on building a broad coalition of opinion leaders and stakeholders who recognize the benefits of moving to a mileage-based user fee: environmental justice groups, climate groups, organizations that care about equity, bike and pedestrian advocates, transit and rail groups and micromobility companies.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about the program. I recently watched a state legislator erroneously express outrage that the state was considering charging people by the mile, in addition to gas taxes.
If government leaders remain confused about the program, we have much work to do to educate the public and raise awareness.
Yet here’s some good news: Public support for RUC has been slowly but steadily rising.
Professor Asha Weinstein Agrawal of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University found that in 2010, only 21 percent of those surveyed said they support a RUC program. But by 2021, that support grew to 47 percent.
And even more encouraging — support is stronger among those who’ve participated in pilots.
There’s a lot to look forward to as USDOT and FHWA begin to design a national pilot and recruit thousands of participants in every state to take part in it. We have a golden opportunity to introduce RUC to more people and give them a chance to try it on a very personal level.
And if the past is any indication, once we do that, the public will likely come away with a favorable impression.
For more perspective on road usage charges, check out Kim’s recent conversation with Grayson Brulte at SAE International, “Is the Rise of EVs the End of the Gas Tax?”
About David Kim: Kim is a senior vice president and national transportation policy and multimodal strategy principal for WSP USA. Based in Washington, D.C., he collaborates with public and private senior transportation executives across the U.S., helping guide policy-making that supports federal funding for transportation projects. Prior to joining WSP, he served as secretary of the California State Transportation Agency where he was responsible for 40,000 employees across eight departments. Kim is a graduate of Occidental College with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in public administration.