Road Charge

Understanding California's Transportation Funding

Current Funding: Fuel Tax Revenues

California relies on gas tax and other fuel tax revenues to fund its roadway maintenance and repairs. But the current transportation funding system is outdated and insufficient. More than $5.7 billion in repairs go unfunded each year because of the deficit, directly impacting Californians’ quality of life.

  • Tax revenue is in decline because of increases in both fuel efficiency and usage of alternative fuel vehicles.
  • But Californians are driving more than ever before, increasing wear and tear on an aging transportation system.
  • 68% of California’s roads are in poor-to-mediocre condition, leading drivers to spend an average of $762 annually on vehicle repairs.

Road Charge

Proposed funding: Sustainable and equitable road charge system 

Senate Bill 1 raised the gas tax and adjusted it for inflation, but it’s a short-term solution to a long-term funding crisis. California needs a new transportation funding system that’s fair for all drivers.

  • California is researching a potential gas tax replacement that’s both sustainable and equitable: road charge.
  • A road charge is a “user pays” system where all drivers pay to maintain the roads based on how much they drive, rather than how much gas they purchase.
  • Under a road charge, all drivers share roadway maintenance and repair costs based on their usage.

Road Charge Pilot Program and Results

California’s Road Charge Pilot Program (RCPP)

Caltrans developed, deployed, and evaluated the nation’s largest road charge trial to date under the direction of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), the California Transportation Commission (CTC), and the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The nine-month, statewide road charge field trial ran from July 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

  • More than 5,000 volunteers participated in the RCPP and drove more than 37 million miles. 
  • Participants represented California’s diverse population and drove several different vehicle types, including heavy commercial vehicles.
  • Various reporting, recording, and payment simulation methods for miles traveled were used, including high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech options. 
  • Drivers’ personal information was protected through strict data security and privacy measures.

Throughout the pilot, participants’ overall understanding and acceptance of road charge fairness increased, with 73% of participants agreeing that a road charge is fairer than a gas tax. Additional results showed that:

  • 90% would participate in another road charge program
  • 85% were satisfied with the overall pilot
  • 78% were satisfied with the security of their data
  • 61% were very satisfied with the concept of road charge

Caltrans is continuing to research public opinion about transportation funding and outreach; secure recording, reporting, and payment methods; and cost implications to both California drivers and the state to administer.

Caltrans is researching transportation funding that is both equitable and sustainable.