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GIS-GPS for distance-based user fee system

Kenneth R Buckeye


Kenneth R Buckeye
Programme Manager (Value Pricing)
Minnesota Department of Transportation, usa
[email protected]
In the USA, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) is leading a forward looking national study aimed at creating both institutional and technical capability to implement distance-based road user fees. When implemented, distance-based charges could supplement or replace existing motor fuel taxes. A critical component of the system is the GIS-GPS interface

DIn the USA the Minnesota Department of Transpor-tation (Mn/DOT) is leading a forward looking national study aimed at creating both institutional and technical capability to implement distance-based road user fees. The project titled A New Approach To Assessing Road User Charges, envisions that the next generation of road user charges would use highly accurate GIS digital maps coupled with in-vehicle computers and global positioning systems (GPS) technologies. Under this concept road authorities will be able to price usage of highway networks based on a number of temporal and system parameters, as well as type and weight of vehicle. A distance-based user fee system is believed by many to be a preferred road user charge because it more accurately balances the price of using a highway system with the costs imposed by the user or vehicle.

When implemented, distance-based charges could supplement or replace existing motor fuel taxes. The long-term viability of the motor fuel taxes are a national issue because of concerns over new propulsion systems that may avoid or substantially reduce collections. Today, both the federal government and all states rely heavily on fuel-based user charges to finance state and local transportation projects. It is assumed that any new road user charge system would have the capability to be operable in all states. A critical component of a distance-based user fee system is the GIS-GPS interface.

This innovative federal research initiative was managed by Mn/DOT who coordinated with co-sponsors (14 other states) and contracted with national experts to execute the research design. The research consists of two major components: legal/institutional issues, and technology evaluation. Dr. David Forkenbrock, Director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa, was the principal investigator on the legal and institutional issues. Dr. Max Donath, Director of the Intelligent Transportation System Institute at the University of Minnesota, was the principal investigator on issues related to technology and the GIS digital map and GPS interface. Full copies of the “New Approach” reports developed under this research may be accessed at the following web site by typing in the authors name:

Why Distance-based User Fees?
In the United States, as in other parts of the world, there is a growing recognition among transportation experts that current motor fuel taxes are increasingly inadequate to finance and operate the highway system. There are several important reasons this; First, while motor fuel taxes can be considered a surrogate for a distance-based fee, they are directly related to consumption of energy rather than consumption of road space. Secondly, with increasing demands on the world’s supply of energy and corresponding pressures that cause significant fluctuations in prices, it is difficult to win political support for increasing the energy tax despite a burgeoning list of unmet transportation needs. In addition, with new vehicle propulsion technologies on the immediate horizon, in particular high-efficiency diesels, hybrid gas-electric engines and hydrogen fuel cells, there is realization that transportation fees collected from the motor fuel tax may no longer be a predictable or reliable source of transportation revenue. Highly efficient and alternative fueled vehicles also have the potential to produce inequities for tax payers since appropriate and fair user fees may be difficult to collect under the current fuel-based user charge system. A distance-based user fee system must be able to ensure a stable stream of revenue for the road and highway system, as well as being equitable and efficient to collect, convenient, and flexible in its application as well as ensure user privacy.