Cover: Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding

Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding

A Primer for State and Local Decisionmakers

Published Dec 28, 2012

by Paul Sorensen, Liisa Ecola, Martin Wachs


Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 4.1 MB Best for desktop computers.

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

ePub file 5 MB Best for mobile devices.

On desktop computers and some mobile devices, you may need to download an eBook reader to view ePub files. Calibre is an example of a free and open source e-book library management application.

mobi file 4.3 MB Best for Kindle 1-3.

On desktop computers and some mobile devices, you may need to download an eBook reader to view mobi files. Amazon Kindle is the most popular reader for mobi files.


Purchase Print Copy

 Format Price
Add to Cart Paperback36 pages $16.95

Research Questions

  1. With growing shortfalls in federal and state funding for surface transportation programs, some states have begun to explore a transition from taxing fuel to taxing vehicle miles of travel. What can we learn from past and ongoing pilot projects exploring mileage-based user fees?
  2. What are the potential advantages of mileage fees?
  3. In selecting among the possible existing technologies for implementing mileage fees, what trade-offs must transportation planners consider?
  4. What are some promising strategies to reduce system cost of and increase public support for mileage fees?

This primer presents some promising and innovative mileage fee system designs and transition strategies. For states or localities that are just beginning to consider the idea of mileage fees, awareness of these strategies can help determine whether shifting from fuel taxes to mileage fees merits further consideration. For jurisdictions already engaged in detailed assessments of mileage fees, these concepts can help refine system design — with the ultimate aim of reducing costs and building public support.

Key Findings

Mileage Fees Would Offer a Significantly More Stable Source of Surface Transportation Funding in Future Decades, and Could Support Additional Policy Goals as Well.

  • Mileage fees could support fee structures that would reduce traffic congestion, excessive road wear, and harmful emissions.
  • Mileage-metering equipment could provide new, value-added amenities for drivers.
  • A mileage-fee system could generate a wealth of anonymous travel data to support enhanced transportation planning and operations.


The authors offer 15 promising strategies for reducing system cost of and increasing public support for mileage fees.

  • Conduct trials and educational outreach.
  • Include elected officials in trials.
  • Engage stakeholders in system planning.
  • Enroll privacy watchdogs.
  • Begin with a simple odometer-based system.
  • Provide drivers with a choice of technologies.
  • Make mileage fees a smartphone app.
  • Design the system to support value-added features.
  • Integrate with ITS investments.
  • Encourage competition among vendors.
  • Initiate a transition with voluntary adoption.
  • Focus initially on alternative-fuel vehicles.
  • Provide a fixed-fee option.
  • Convert other funding mechanisms to per-mile fees.
  • Work with other states to develop a multijurisdictional system.

Author Statement

This report is part of the RAND tool series. RAND tools may include models, databases, calculators, computer code, GIS mapping tools, practitioner guidelines, web applications, and various toolkits. All RAND tools undergo rigorous peer review to ensure both high data standards and appropriate methodology in keeping with RAND's commitment to quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.