Study shows charging for travel has potential in Michigan

A new study released on Thursday morning created for the Michigan Environmental Council shows that Michigan roads could finally be saved, but will require some more green to come out of the pockets of drivers.

The study was conducted by Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research and Transportation (SMART), at the University of Michigan. Researches used data from other states, and countries, and concluded that Michigan could benefit from a mileage fee policy.

Right now, road funding comes largely from the taxes added on at the fuel pumps. But researchers say that with fewer people driving, and advances in fuel efficient vehicles that there's not enough funding to cover the estimated $2 billion annually that it would cost to fix our roads.

"Essentially what the tax is based on is the amount of gasoline purchased by a driver," said Dan Sommerville, Policy Associate for the Michigan Environmental Council. "What a mileage fee can also take into account is the number of miles that are actually driven, the time that people are traveling, the weight of a vehicle, and even the location of travel."

Fixing the roads isn't the only result of a policy like this, according to researchers. Research shows that it could also help transportation leaders to find out where the busiest roads are, when they're being driven the most, and by what kind of car.

"And what that translates to us drivers is that our transportation system is going to be planned with a lot more efficiency in mind for the way we as users drive," said Sommerville.

The study shows that it also has the potential to help drivers change their driving habits, and improve environmental quality.

One challenge listed in the study is with people who fear that their privacy would be impacted if the state could track every mile that they drive. But policy leaders say there would be different options to consider.

"It's whether or not it's tracking every single mile you drive...and where that is or if it's tracking just miles traveled in different zones," said Sommerville.

Michigan Environmental Quality isn't sure what the average dollar amount is that drivers could wind up spending on the potential fee. Leaders say they need to do more research first to figure that out. Michigan is 5-10 years away from adopting any kind of a policy like this.