Distance-based user fee project receives Research Partnership Award

Group photo of the RPA-winning team
Left to right: Phil Magney, Ken Buckeye, Frank Douma, Bob Johns, Chris Berrens, Adeel Lari, Meredith Benesh

A pilot demonstration of distance-based user fees in shared mobility fleets received this year’s Robert C. Johns Research Partnership Award. As vehicles switch from gas-fueled to electric and revenues from the fuel tax begin to decline, the transportation industry is looking for alternative ways to fund roadways—and these fees have been gaining traction as a possibility.

During the 12-month demonstration, MnDOT used existing technologies embedded within shared mobility vehicles to automatically calculate the distance-based fees. As part of the project, researchers in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs evaluated the demonstration based on its feasibility, efficiency, adequacy, and equity. Read more about the project.

When the team first started working on the project several years ago, members saw that shared mobility and its technologies were becoming very important and influencing how the transportation system works. “We had a chance to meet with Zipcar and HOURCAR, and after that we realized we could leverage the markets and the tools of these companies to address equity and other issues—including privacy concerns—this way,” says Frank Douma, a Humphrey School researcher and the principal investigator of the research component.

The Research Partnership Award is named in honor of former CTS director Robert Johns. The award is presented annually to a team of individuals who have collaboratively drawn on their diverse expertise to achieve significant impacts on transportation.

Project team

  • University of Minnesota: Frank Douma (PI), Meredith Benesh, Camila Fonseca-Sarmiento, Adeel Lari, Lee Munnich, Jerry Zhao, Raihana Zeerak
  • Federal Highway Administration: Andrew Emanuele, Jim McCarthy
  • HOURCAR: Paul Schroeder, Riley Haberland, Jennifer Crandall
  • Loveland Communications: Joe Loveland
  • Minnesota Department of Revenue: Glen Kleven, Jeremy Neeck
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation: Jeanne Aamodt, Chris Berrens, Ken Buckeye, Serge Phillips, Lynn Poirier, Erik Rudeen, Ray Starr
  • VSI Labs: Phil Magney, Matthew Linder, Anas Al Badi, Mayura Gunarathne
  • WSP: Trey Baker, Markell Moffat, David Ungemah, Mike Warren
  • Zipcar: Sabrina Sussma


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