Examining substitutes to the current state and federal gasoline and diesel fuel excise taxes has become a pressing issue, exacerbated by the rise of high efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles threatening the revenue generating capacity of these taxes. A mileage-based user fee has been frequently proposed in the literature as an alternative which would offer greater benefits to rural and low-income populations than to urban and higher income populations. However, most prior analyses relied on small data sets and aggregated data. This study examined the impact of replacing the Vermont state fuels tax with a revenue-neutral mileage-based user fee using mileage and fuel economy data for over 300,000 registered passenger vehicles. We find that, on average, Vermont households would pay an additional $23 per year, with rural households and low-income households facing smaller tax burdens than their urban and high-income counterparts. The impacts of a $180 flat fee replacing the Vermont state motor fuels tax was also examined due to state interest. Findings indicate a flat fee would result in much larger price fluctuations, with most households paying an additional $47 per year. The disaggregated data approach presented here directly addresses public misconceptions of inequitable cost differences and provides context for public education campaigns to garner mileage-based user fee policy support. Based on our results, there is political ground for further research into the implementation of a mileage-based user fee, including the logistics of an administrative transition to mileage charging and the associated program implementation and technological costs.
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Nelson, C., Rowangould, G., 2023. Data-Driven Analysis of Rural Equity and Cost Concerns for Mileage-Based User Fees in Vermont. Transportation Research Record 03611981231206167. https://doi.org/10.1177/03611981231206167