Transportation Funding

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Federal, state, and local governments are finding it increasingly difficult to raise sufficient revenue to build and maintain roads and transit systems. RAND researchers evaluate new and existing transportation funding mechanisms and policies including fuel taxes, mileage-based user fees, congestion pricing, and more.

  • People wearing protective face masks wait for a bus in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Britain, March 19, 2020, photo by Simon Dawson/Reuters

    Commentary

    COVID-19: The Questions Ahead for Future Travel and Transport

    Apr 15, 2020

    COVID-19 could have lasting effects on future travel patterns. Future scenarios, a method for visualizing different possible futures, can help inform decisions in deeply uncertain situations and can be used to think about policies that are important for people's quality of life regardless of how the future unfolds.

  • Airport trading cards, photos by Airports Council International-North America; design by Katherine Wu/RAND Corporation

    Report

    U.S. Airport Infrastructure Funding and Financing

    Jan 14, 2020

    Passenger air travel is at an all-time high, and demand for it is expected to rise. Will current levels of spending under existing federal policies be sufficient to enable commercial airports to make the infrastructure investments needed to meet that demand?

Explore Transportation Funding

  • U.S. Capitol building with summer flowers

    Blog

    Summer Reading for Congress

    No matter how policymakers spend their break—meeting with home-state constituents, traveling abroad with congressional delegations, or spending time with family—this summer reading list contains policy ideas that can help them hit the ground running when they return.

    Jul 31, 2014

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    A New Way to Pay for Transportation: Exploring a Shift from Fuel Taxes to Mileage-Based User Fees

    In this June 2014 Congressional Briefing, Liisa Ecola discusses growing shortfalls in federal and state funding for surface transportation programs, and the potential of mileage fees (rather than fuel taxes) to reduce those shortfalls while also reducing traffic congestion, harmful emissions, and excessive road wear.

    Jun 26, 2014

  • Automobile traffic backs-up as it travels north from San Diego to Los Angeles along Interstate Highway 5 in California

    Commentary

    Make HOT Lanes Permanent

    The first HOT lanes in L.A. have improved traffic flow and travel time reliability, are fair to users of the facilities, have improved transit service and have generated revenue needed to fund those improvements from voluntary toll payments.

    Apr 23, 2014

  • A truck is filled with sand at Wellsboro & Corning Railroad in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania

    Commentary

    As U.S. Energy Booms, Don't Forget About Roadway Infrastructure

    Natural gas production is growing and many states and communities are reaping the economic benefits. One of the costs, however, will be damage to roads. One hydraulic fracturing operation requires about 600 to 1,100 one-way, heavy truck trips to bring equipment, materials, and sometimes water to and from a well site.

    Mar 11, 2014

  • toll booth with ezpass

    Report

    Mileage-Fee Design Strategies to Reduce System Cost and Increase Public Acceptance

    As traditional transportation revenue sources primarily based on gas tax continue to dwindle or stay even at best, the notion of transitioning to a vehicle-miles-traveled fee or mileage-based user fee has come under substantial consideration. Some design strategies can reduce system costs and increase public acceptance of mileage-based fees.

    Nov 14, 2013

  • illustration of cars, trucks, buses, and helicopter traveling in a city

    Blog

    What Mobility Might Look Like in the U.S. in 2030

    Mobility — the ability to travel from one location to another — may look very different in the United States in the year 2030. Three key drivers differentiate possible scenarios: the price of oil, the development of environmental regulations, and the amount of highway revenues and expenditures.

    Oct 28, 2013

  • depiction of fast-moving traffic at night

    Report

    Scenarios Examine Future of Mobility in the United States

    What might one expect for the future of mobility in the U.S. in 2030? A six-step scenario development process resulted in two thought-provoking scenarios that address this question, and three key drivers differentiate the scenarios: the price of oil, the development of environmental regulation, and the amount of highway revenues and expenditures.

    Oct 24, 2013

  • Traffic Jam Stopped Cars Pennsylvania Turnpike Exit 358 Bristol Levittown

    Commentary

    Paying for Infrastructure, a Taxing Issue

    If the “user pays” idea is worth saving, the United States needs a different calculation, writes Liisa Ecola. Some states are looking at mileage fees. With mileage fees, you pay based on the number of miles you drive, rather than the number of gallons of gas used.

    May 16, 2013

  • Aerial photo of highway

    Commentary

    Consider Taxing Miles Traveled

    Mileage-fee rates could be structured to reduce congestion, harmful emissions and excessive road wear, and the enabling technology could support a range of value-added services offering greater convenience and safety for motorists, writes Keith Crane.

    Apr 19, 2013

  • man filling car gas tank

    Commentary

    Does U.S. Gas Tax Still Make Sense?

    It's time to consider changing the country's transportation funding scheme from one based on gallons purchased to one based on vehicle miles actually traveled, writes Liisa Ecola.

    Mar 8, 2013

  • Cars go through Washington State toll booths

    Journal Article

    Emerging Strategies in Mileage-Based User Fees to Reduce Costs and Increase Acceptance

    This paper presents a review of promising mileage-fee design and implementation strategies intended to reduce system costs and foster greater public acceptance.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • Traffic Jam Stopped Cars Pennsylvania Turnpike Exit 358 Bristol Levittown

    Tool

    Advantages of Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding

    An illustrated guide provides state and local decisionmakers with a high-level synopsis of mileage fee issues: policy motivations, technical options, key challenges, and emerging strategies to address those challenges.

    Dec 28, 2012

  • cars in a traffic jam under blue sky

    Multimedia

    Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding

    A RAND guide offers clear and practical strategies on mileage-based user fee systems currently being piloted in several states across the United States. Paul Sorensen, associate director of the RAND Transportation, Space, and Technology Program, discusses the guide.

    Dec 18, 2012

  • Research Brief

    Research Brief

    Moving Toward Vehicle Miles of Travel Fees to Replace Fuel Taxes: Assessing the Path Forward

    Assesses alternate mechanisms for implementing fees to fund the nation's road network based on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and outlines a plan for large-scale system trials to further evaluate the most promising concepts.

    Mar 29, 2011

  • Report

    Report

    Replacing Gas Tax with Crude Oil Tax Could Fund Nation's Transportation Needs

    The federal government could fully fund its surface transportation infrastructure needs by levying a percentage tax on crude oil and imported refined petroleum products.

    Feb 22, 2011

  • Report

    Report

    System Trials to Demonstrate Mileage-Based Road Use Charges

    Explore options for conducting a set of trials to test the feasibility of transitioning from fuel excise taxes to a system of road use charges based on vehicle miles of travel.

    Feb 11, 2011

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Making Congestion Pricing Equitable

    Identifies and assesses ways of making congestion pricing equitable.

    Jan 1, 2011

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    Surface Transportation Finance: The End of User Financing or a New Beginning?

    In this March 8, 2010, Congressional Briefing, Martin Wachs and Paul Sorensen discuss alternative funding streams for highway and public transportation improvements that Congress can consider as it focuses on the pending reauthorization of the federal transportation bill.

    Mar 8, 2010

  • News Release

    News Release

    Alternate Ways to Fund U.S. Transportation System

    Congress should take the opportunity provided by the pending reauthorization of the federal transportation bill to consider new ways to fund the U.S. transportation system, shifting from indirect fees such as fuel taxes to ones that charge drivers directly for the miles they travel.

    Feb 10, 2010

  • Report

    Report

    Alternate Ways to Fund U.S. Transportation System

    Congress should take the opportunity provided by the pending reauthorization of the federal transportation bill to consider new ways to fund the U.S. transportation system, shifting from indirect fees such as fuel taxes to ones that charge drivers directly for the miles they travel.

    Sep 25, 2009