It was a novelty last year when the state of Oregon unveiled its pay as you go mileage tax for motor vehicles. The program, named OreGo, was strictly voluntary. Now an increasingly number of states from sea to shining sea are looking into their own mileage-based tax schemes and it’s becoming increasingly likely that this will be the new normal soon enough.
Earlier today, the Washington Post reported that the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Hampshire are all considering mileage-based motor vehicle tax pilot programs. This is on the heels of California, which unveils a similar program next month. Illinois lawmakers are also considering such a tax.
Mileage-based taxes rely on GPS and other navigational aids to determine mileage driven. They are incredibly unpopular with the motoring public, but so are increases in traditional gas taxes and cash starved states are scrambling to find ways to raise the funds necessary to repair crumbling bridges and roads. Something has to give, and it will give regardless of whether the public likes it or not.
I’m not opposed to mileage-based taxes for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, they will cause all of us to think a little more clearly about the true cost of driving. Every time we get in our cars and go blissfully down the road, we create costs that society bears. Mileage taxes link those costs to the act of driving in a way gas taxes simply don’t.
Second, and just as importantly, I think these taxes will cause people to seek options to their cars. The logical option, especially for trips of five miles or less, is a bicycle. Bicycles are exempt from mileage-based taxes. This is fair and reasonable, since bicycles weigh almost nothing and, as a result, do not damage roads.
So if mileage-based taxes are coming to your neck of the woods, you can choose not to pay them. For short trips, use a bicycle instead of a car. That’s a win for you. It’s also a win for your community, because as good as cycling is for us personally, it’s even better for the places we live.