Monday 8 July 2013

A small step for Oregon, a giant leap for the United States

The Oregon State Legislature has now passed the first legislation to allow for the implementation of a distance based road user charging system for cars on existing roads, in the United States.

Extensive background about the Oregon system was written and linked to in these articles:

The SB810 Road Usage Charging Bill passed the Oregon State Senate by 24 to 6.
It passed the Oregon State House of Representatives by 48 to 12.

It now awaits the signature of Governor John Kitzhaber, who is understood to be fully supportive.

What it means is that Oregon will be implementing distance based charging for ultra fuel-efficient vehicles (those with greater than 55 MPG fuel consumption).

This provides a benchmark approach that some other states are likely to follow, whereby a small number of road users - those which pay little to no fuel tax - will be paying to use the roads directly.   It offers a long term path to shift vehicles from taxing energy use, to taxing road use.   Most Oregonians will notice nothing, unless they purchase such fuel efficient vehicles, and over the next decade or two, more and more will.

I don't have to explain to readers what a significant evolutionary step this is, and how long term the policy is.  A stark contrast to the approach of some states and countries.

I will be open, that I played a very small part in this project a couple of years ago, assisting the team at D'Artagnan Consulting LLP, which has been one of the key firms advising and developing the system architecture for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

However, those who know this project understand that it is, in particular, through the efforts of Jim Whitty - Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding Manager at Oregon Department of Transportation - who over some years, with his team, have taken the best experience from across the US and across the world (dare I say that sometimes Americans can be accused of minimising the relevance of experience from other countries, Whitty did not), to develop a solution for Oregon.

I congratulate Jim his team, both within ODOT and his advisors and consultants, on this landmark success.