The Hawaii legislature has considered one RUC related bill—HB 1174 (failed)—in 2019. The bill would have created a state vehicle miles traveled fee for electric vehicles. This fee would have been due at the time a vehicle’s registration was owed. The per-mile fee would have been levied by a county’s director of finance based on the miles traveled during the year, calculated using a comparison of the vehicle’s current odometer reading with the odometer reading of the previous year.
HDOT is conducting a three-year Hawaii Road Usage Charge demonstration project (HiRUC) that started in late 2018. Hawaii defines an “RUC” as a per-mile fee that drivers pay to fund the upkeep of the road instead of paying a tax on gasoline.” HDOT notes that an RUC helps ensure each driver pays for how much roadway they use. The intersection of transportation and energy is an important policy issue in Hawaii, given the state’s goal of being 100% fueled by clean energy by 2045.
HDOT has established goals such as providing actionable information to state lawmakers about sustainable transportation funding, partnering with state and local agencies to explore and resolve administrative challenges and providing information to help build a demonstration program as a platform for exploring and resolving certain challenges. This research project explores how a per-mile fee could affect the buying of both high-mileage-per-gallon or alternative fuel vehicles, will build upon existing research on the annual collection of odometer readings and will be used as part of a potential RUC system.
Some project goals are as follows:
- Hawaii is investigating methods to streamline user-based revenue mechanisms into a single system, allowing motorists to make installment payments over time rather than through an annual lump-sum payment. Potential options cited by HDOT include:
- Using the existing annual vehicle inspection process in Hawaii, whereby miles could be reported by odometer readings (16 other states require periodic safety inspections).
- Local-option fuel taxes (13 other states allow county, city, and/or other local option fuel taxes).
- Interest in large-scale public engagement around transportation funding and incorporating public feedback into policy and system design.
By January 2019, HDOT formed an executive steering committee, designed a telephone survey and held 10 focus group meetings. Later that year HDOT conducted over 1,500 telephone surveys and held 13 on-site and one online community meetings.
Using the existing annual safety check infrastructure and data-enabled HiRUC to expand on a wide-reaching public outreach campaign in late 2019 by sending out direct mail Driving Reports (mock invoices) to vehicle owners throughout the state that showed personalized, side-by-side comparisons of what the person paid in gas tax based on their vehicle’s EPA MPG, and what they could be paying under an RUC system. The recipients were asked to complete a survey so HDOT could understand what the general public understood about transportation funding, the concept of an RUC, and asked other related RUC related questions. Nearly 360,000 Driving Reports were mailed covering an estimated 365,888 vehicles, and the HDOT received 40,371 completed surveys. This is the largest RUC public outreach effort conducted to date.
The HDOT conducted the Technology Test Drive (TTD) that offered three automated mileage reporting options to volunteers. A total of 1,887 volunteers enrolled in the TTD phase. In addition to having individual drivers participating in this demonstration phase, the HiRUC project also included a fleet-focused demonstration that enrolled an additional 242 vehicles from three privately operated fleets and one governmental fleet. This allowed fleet participants to test a more streamlined enrollment system, leveraging each fleet’s internal odometer reporting processes and systems, and an opportunity for HDOT to further understand the different ways of how fleet operators and businesses could be impacted if an RUC is implemented. Studies of RUC impacts on fleets have been very limited to date.
Policy papers and a final report is being developed that will summarize the work performed, analyses of data collected, and present RUC policy and implementation options. This work is anticipated to be completed in January 2022.