Caltrans seeks rural, tribal volunteers for latest ‘road charge’ study 

The California Department of Transportation is recruiting volunteers who reside and travel in rural and tribal communities to participate in the latest testing phase of a “road charge” pilot. Up to 500 volunteers will participate in a seven-month simulated road charge system, which charges drivers based on the number of miles they travel rather than the amount of gas they use to support the state’s critical transportation infrastructure. There will be no cost to participate, and upon completion, volunteers will be eligible to receive an incentive of up to $250.

“Rural and tribal communities have unique travel needs and may interact with a road charge system in different ways,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “It is essential that Caltrans understands their needs as it develops an equitable and convenient alternative to the gas tax.”

Starting in March 2023, the California Road Charge Public-Private Roads Project will explore the technical aspects of reporting mileage, as well as engage rural and tribal communities in a conversation about their communities’ priorities in a potential road charge system to fund road and highway maintenance.

This pilot will simulate how participants interact with a road charge system by reporting mileage and “paying” mock invoices. The pilot will conduct surveys to gauge participants’ preferences and experience.

As vehicles become more fuel-efficient and the state’s transition to zero-emission vehicles accelerates, Caltrans is researching possible alternatives to the state gas tax, which California has historically relied on to build and maintain the state’s transportation system. Volatile oil prices and California’s phasing out the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 add increased urgency to research ways to bring long-term stability to transportation funding. For that reason, Caltrans is testing various methods to collect per-mile rather than per-gallon fees.

This demonstration is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives Program and will build on Caltrans’ previous road charge pilots: California’s Road Charge Pilot in 2017, which introduced the road charge concept to Californians, and California’s Four-Phase Demonstration, which tested the road charge concept across several platforms including pay-at-the-pump and electric vehicle charging station systems, usage-based insurance, transportation network company fleets, and automated vehicles.

Volunteers interested in participating in the pilot – and the incentive of up to $250 – may visit http://www.caroadcharge.com/projects/public-private-roads-project/ and complete the participant recruitment survey. Participants must be California residents over the age of 18. The pilot is employing the highest standards in data protection and safeguarding, ensuring that Caltrans will not receive any sensitive information from participants.

To learn more about the California Road Charge Project and the Road Charge Program, visit www.caroadcharge.com.