This news post appeared in : Summer 2016 issue of MBUFA’s e-Newsletter
It has been just over a year since the launch of OReGO, Oregon’s first-in-the-nation road user
charge program that charges drivers a tax based on miles driven rather than fuel consumed.
Senate bill 810 enabled ODOT to sign up 5,000 volunteer cars and light-duty trucks and charge them each 1.5 cents per mile. Drivers log on to the OReGO website to register, choose from one of three account managers and opt to have their mileage recorded by a plug-in on-board diagnostics device, which may or may not be GPS-enabled. Participants receive a credit on their bill to offset the fuel tax paid at the pump.
Participation in the program has been far less than the maximum allowed
- Develop programs to increase public awareness of the need to find alternatives to the gas tax and allay concerns about the privacy and security of driver travel data
- Increase the benefits provided to drivers by the account managers to include other services like pay-for-parking
- Make the program more robust by putting in place mechanisms that improve account manager performance and reduce tax cheating
- Explore the issue of how to deal with out-of-state drivers – or interoperability as transportation experts refer to it. This would include continuing to work with other states, by way of the Western Road Usage Charge Consortium, sharing information and creating common technical standards
These results will allow program managers to report back to the Road User Fee Task Force, which could recommend statewide adoption.
There were no reported unauthorized disclosures of volunteers’ personal information
Opponents of road user charges have long advocated against the distance-based fee concept due to privacy concerns including the potential for officials to use GPS to track driver location and use the data for nefarious purposes. To assuage these concerns, the bill prevented the disclosure of volunteers’ personal information for those using the GPS option and required account managers to destroy all records of the travel patterns of individual drivers after a 30 day period (disclosures to the police during a criminal investigation are allowed).
In addition, vendors were required to sign contracts that included confidentiality provisions with the stipulation that they could face stiff penalties for any violations. By the end of its first year, OReGO avoided any confidentiality violations. Whether this can reassure the public and elicit more participation is left to be seen.
After its first year, the jury is out on whether OReGO will move beyond a small voluntary program to a statewide mandatory one. Legislative action will be required to move in that direction. A lot will depend on public support, revenue forecasts, as well as program results going forward.