Op-Ed: Instead of a New VMT Tax, Raise the Gas Tax

Implementing a tax based on miles traveled could disincentivize purchasing more efficient cars and would do little to improve road safety, one columnist argues.

2 minute read

August 20, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Texas Highways

TBaker770 / Shutterstock

"Americans are increasingly driving hybrid and electric-only cars, reducing emissions and curbing gasoline consumption — accomplishing key goals of the Biden administration," writes Justin B. Hollander. But "[i]mposing a new Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax," included in the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate last week, "would likely flush away all those prior investments in efficiency and remove much of the incentive for someone to purchase and operate a hybrid or electric-only car." 

"Presently, the 18.4 cents (or 24.4 cents for diesel) per gallon gas tax generates over $30 billion annually to help pay for a range of highway, rail and other transit costs," but "critics worry that our increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles, move towards fully electric cars and a decline in overall car use threaten the fiscal future of national transportation funding." In Hollander's view, "the answer for the U.S. DOT is to simply increase the gas tax and get more cars off our roads."

"The gas tax has been shown in numerous research studies to be an effective policy tool that discourages driving and encourages the use of public transit. If the U.S. DOT needs more money, then they ought to seek out congressional support for raising the gas tax — it has not increased since 1993,"  argues Hollander. "Create a brand new, national-level taxation system based on vehicle miles traveled and you will discourage the use of environmentally friendly cars and do nothing to actually make us safer from the hazards of cars and trucks."

Thursday, August 12, 2021 in The Hill

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Close-up of electric stove range with front burners red-hot.

California Cities Suspend Natural Gas Bans Following Court Ruling

A Ninth Circuit court ruling forced Berkeley to reverse its ban on natural gas in new buildings, prompting other cities to suspend their own efforts to promote all-electric buildings.

May 28, 2024 - East Bay Times

BART heavy rail train on elevated track pulling into Concord, CA station with cloudy sky and trees in background.

Bay Area Transit Projects Awarded $18 Million

The funding supports eight ‘near-term’ projects slated for completion within the next one to three years.

1 hour ago - Contra Costa Herald

Silver UTA On Demand transit van in Utah.

Utah On-Demand Transit Hits 1 Million Rides

The service connects outlying communities with fixed-route transit lines.

2 hours ago - Utah Transit Authority

Texas Flood

Texas Flood Plan Shows One in Six Residents Live With Flood Risk

One-fourth of the state’s land falls within 100-year or 500-year floodplains.

3 hours ago - The Texas Tribune

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.