Frank Douma, Director, SLPP, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
This research supports work at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) that, through a federal grant, is conducting a pre-implementation study of the potential for the long-term, incremental transition from the motor fuel tax to distance-based user fees through the shared mobility model (e.g. carsharing and ridesharing services).
While the motor fuel tax has been an efficient and effective revenue source for transportation for many years, increases in fuel efficiency and development of new sources of energy have enabled drivers to drive more and pay less per mile of travel. It is feasible to increase the motor fuel tax to cover these shortcomings in the near term, but a transition to a distance-based fee appears to be a logical, long-term solution. Since migration to user-based fees will be incremental, the incremental growth of shared mobility (SM) providers may be the path of least resistance since subscribers agree to provide personal information as a formality of the business rules. The ultimate maturity of this concept is fully autonomous vehicles, which are forecast to grow significantly in the coming decades.
This scope of work articulates an approach that anticipates where the personal mobility market will be in the 15- to 25-year time horizon. If forecasts are correct, automated vehicles could account for 50 percent of all travel by 2032 and as much as 90 percent of travel by 2040, with vehicles owned by SM providers operating a significant portion of those miles. This research will help position Minnesota to make the transition from the motor fuel tax to other transportation revenue sources as fuel economies continue to rise and other energy sources, such as electricity, become more common and allow drivers to travel more miles per gallon of fuel.
As vehicles also become capable of taking on more of the driving task, it is likely that more road users will move to SM options as well--choosing to pay per trip rather than owning a vehicle. This creates the opportunity to collect a distance-based user fee from a few SM providers rather than many individual drivers, significantly reducing the costs of administering such a fee and making the administrative efficiency more comparable to the very efficient costs of administering the motor fuel tax. As of September 2018, a concept of operations and proof of concept have been completed, and high level stakeholders have been engaged. Modeling of pricing options has also been completed. Efforts are continuing to engage users and similarly-situated stakeholders.