If you drive a car, you should be more than interested in a pair of meetings coming up on Kauai, because they could end up costing you money.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation will hold 14 community meetings across the state to get public feedback on the concept of a road-usage charge (RUC) to fund upkeep of roadways and bridges. Community meetings are scheduled tonight, 5:30 to 7:30 at Wilcox Elementary School cafeteria in Lihue, and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Koloa Neighborhood Center.
Hawaii residents can also provide input and ask questions via an online community meeting on April 18. More information about all the meetings is available on the project website, www.hiruc.org.
So, what’s this all about? It’s about too many people driving fuel-efficient cars. Now, normally, that’s a good thing. Smaller, lighter cars mean less stress on the roads, less crowded roads but, more importantly, they burn less gas, which is good for the environment. Cars that are economical are usually touted as wonderful.
But maybe not.
That’s because fuel-tax revenue provides a third of Hawaii’s highways funding. And that revenue is decreasing as cars become more fuel-efficient. So the state is, as it said in a press release, looking at a long-term replacement for the gas tax that is “sustainable and fair to all road users.”
It doesn’t seem right that because more people are choosing to drive smaller cars, thus using less fuel, the state wants to come up with another way to make up the difference in falling fuel-tax revenue. We don’t blame them, but we don’t like it. Seems we would reward people for driving economical cars, not figure out ways to change the fee system so they have to pay more money. Some people have to drive long distances to work and bought small cars that get more than 30 mph because of that long drive. This could hit them the hardest.
So, how does this RUC system work?
Vehicle owners pay for actual miles driven versus a gasoline-tax system where owners pay by the amount of fuel their vehicle consumes. Hawaii is one of a dozen states, including California and Oregon, that is investigating whether the switch to a pay-per-mile-driven charge is feasible and how it might be implemented.
“Hawaii’s study looks at a RUC system as a revenue-neutral replacement to the current 16 cents per gallon state fuel tax,” said the press release from the Hawaii Department of Transportation. “As a part of this study, important factors such as sustainability, fairness, information and privacy protection, and other topics will be addressed.”
While it sounds perfectly fair to charge people based on miles driven, there are questions surrounding how that will work.
w How will the state collect mileage information?
w How will the state collect the fee from drivers?
w Would they be billed annually? Monthly?
The state knows it has work to do. The Hawaii Road Usage Charge Demonstration is a three-year project to investigate the use of a per-mile fee to fund upkeep of roads and bridges instead of a system where drivers pay at the pump.
We encourage people to attend one of these two meetings on Kauai and share their views.