Thanks to rising prices and automobiles getting more miles per gallon Americans aren’t using as much gasoline, so the government isn’t collecting as much in gas taxes as the big spending politicians would like. So they have to move on to Plan B, which could include a black box tracking your mileage.
As America’s road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.
The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America’s major roads.
The usually dull arena of highway planning has suddenly spawned intense debate and colorful alliances. Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.
The tea party is aghast. The American Civil Liberties Union is deeply concerned, too, raising a variety of privacy issues.
I’m a bit surprised that libertarians are for this. Do they actually think this mileage tax would replace the gas tax?
For now this idea isn’t going anywhere in Congress. Democrats in the Senate are all for it, but Republicans in the House representing rural voters put the breaks on it. But that doesn’t mean cities and states aren’t looking into it.
Several states and cities are nonetheless moving ahead on their own. The most eager is Oregon, which is enlisting 5,000 drivers in the country’s biggest experiment. Those drivers will soon pay the mileage fees instead of gas taxes to the state. Nevada has already completed a pilot. New York City is looking into one. Illinois is trying it on a limited basis with trucks. And the I-95 Coalition, which includes 17 state transportation departments along the Eastern Seaboard (including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida), is studying how they could go about implementing the change.
Different cities and states have different ideas to address privacy concerns. There’s a company working on a device that only tracks the number of miles driven, but not where people drive. But New York City is moving in the opposite direction, talking about making these devices do all sorts of things like pay parking tickets.
Update: Linked by The Pirate’s Cove – thanks!