As Washington begins testing a pay-by-mile system that could eventually replace the gas tax to fund roads, it is looking to other states for lessons.
Tuesday, an official with the California Department of Transportation briefed the Washington State Transportation Commission about California's nine-month pilot project.
Five thousand vehicles were registered in CalTrans' road charge pilot project, and officials report that 85 percent of participants were satisfied with the pilot and 73 percent felt a road charge was a more equitable way of paying for roads compared to the gas tax.
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But California also found the administrative costs high with a road charge and say some smartphone apps used to record mileage had problems.
The complication of collecting mileage information is why Caltrans now wonders if the future of road usage charges is actually at the gas pump.
California officials want to know if smart cars can someday talk to smart gas pumps, or smart charging stations, to collect odometer readings.
"They have all these bells and whistles so they should be able to communicate with infrastructure as well as other vehicles," said Carrie Pourvahidi, Road Charge Program Manager for CalTrans.
If mileage information is collected either with a GPS device mounted in a vehicle or a low-tech reporting system, drivers would be hit with a big bill at the end of the month.
"That's why we're looking at a system that is pay as you go," Pourvahidi said.
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