A penny for your thoughts — and your miles


Burning money as you drive may not be referring to gasoline anymore.

The Bay Area is looking to become the first region in the country to tax its drivers for every mile they drive. The average driver would pay around $1,300 annually, with low-income people exempted.

The price per mile — based on time of day — would be anywhere between 10 cents to less than a penny when there’s no one on the road.

The process would require drivers to install a GPS to their car to keep track of miles traveled. Planners know how “big brother” that sounds, so regional officials are going to approve a study of such a tax, beginning Thursday.

The goal of a vehicle miles traveled tax, or VMT, is to reduce traffic, cut pollution and bring revenue in to fix roads.

Experts say that VMT often have merit, but can be overzealous when being created, former presidential transportation adviser Bob Poole told the Merc:

“It really would be premature in the next five years to even think about trying something like this. There are a huge number of questions that need to be worked on.”

The VMT study is part of a larger transit and housing project called Plan Bay Area. Additional ideas include raising the Bay Bridge toll and reducing the size of parking lots.

The court of public opinion, however, has usually been quick to strike down measures that try to charge drivers more.

While the goals of the VMT may be favorable, the extra cost and creepy tracking aspect of it has drivers like Kevin Spencer, of Yellow Checker Cab, fuming:

“Are you kidding me? It’s ludicrous. Some of the families, blue-collar people just trying to make a living, would have to decide whether to pay their mortgage (or drive).”

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