That was the main takeaway from a remarkable report just published by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.
The Board used an intensive “deliberative forum” format to educate and engage citizen groups. They looked at congestion in the Washington metro area – obviously a huge concern – and ways that road pricing could be used to raise money to improve the system.
The most extensive pricing system – in effect an elaborate vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax using GPS – “triggered a strong negative response…The objections toward this scenario were visceral. Participants found the proposal overwhelming and unfamiliar, they thought it would be impossible to implement, and they were concerned about where the money that was raised would go…The scenario provoked a sense of outrage regarding issues of privacy and government overreach.”
Wow. And this was not an instant reaction, but one based on an intensive briefing.
What did these citizens like better? The gas tax!
“People…became much more supportive of gas tax increases after a lengthy discussion about current funding problems and options for road pricing. At the beginning of the forums, 21% of participants thought gas taxes should be raised to pay for transportation improvements. By the end, 57% thought they should be raised.”
I believe this report supports my conclusion that many people continue to underestimate both the public resistance to VMT-type taxes and the resilience of the gas tax as a revenue source.