Monday, March 16, 2009

If Fred Hiatt Is For It

America's stupidest Op-Ed editor, Fred Hiatt, comes out in favor of a vehicle miles tax.

So Congress created the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission to figure out what to do. It was stocked with Democrats (such as Atkinson, who heads the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation) and Republicans, gas tax people and toll people, bankers and mass-transit executives -- 15 members who started far apart but after hours of hearings, discussions and meetings ended up, in a recently released report, unanimous.

And here's what they said: Raise the gas tax now, by 10 cents from the current 18.4 cents per gallon. Then replace it entirely over the next decade or so with a system that would charge drivers a fee per mile driven.

In this new world, a GPS would be built into every car and truck. It would keep track of where you drove your car, and when, but the data would not be shared beyond the vehicle so privacy would be protected. It could be set to charge more per mile driven for Hummers than for Civics; more during rush hour than in the middle of the night; more for driving on congested bridges than on empty roads.

Unlike most proponents, Hiatt at least comes up with some uses which aren't covered - and covered better - by a simple gas tax which already charges more for Hummers than for Civics. But then the real point of a vehicle miles tax isn't to charge per mile, it's a way of implementing congestion tolling. Congestion tolling is a good idea, but there's no need to connect to a general vehicle miles fee.