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Oregon Considers GPS-based Road Taxes 696

Oregon is considering instituting a road tax - a tax based on the mileage driven within the state. The tax would be implemented with mandatory GPS boxes in each vehicle recording the mileage driven in Oregon. We've done a couple of previous stories on Great Britain's initiatives in this area.
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Oregon Considers GPS-based Road Taxes

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  • by Vodak ( 119225 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:20PM (#4994910)
    It's funny because alot of people forget Oregon even exists, but they prove they can create just as many dumb law ideas like California.
    • A Texan, a Californian, and an Oregonian are out hiking in the wilderness and meet each other and decide to share a camp fire. After dinner, in a flash of showmanship, the Texan pulls a bottle of tequila out of his pack, and takes one long swig out of it. Then the Texan throws the bottle up into the air and whips out a large chromed, pearl-handled revolver and shoots the bottle out of the air. His camp-mates are a bit surprised and comment on the waste of good tequila. The Texan explains:"Oh, it's no loss. Where I'm from we've got more tequila than we can drink." Not to be out-done, the Californian fetches a bottle of Chardonnay from his pack,takes a sip, throws it into the air, whips out a Glock 9mm with laser sight and emptys the clip, breaking the bottle, and then boasts: "Where I come from we have more wine than we can drink." The Oregonian fetches a bottle of micro-brewed, bottle-conditioned Inda Pale ale from his pack, quietly drinks the entire bottle, tosses the empty into the air, pulls out a shotgun, shoots the Californian, and catches the bottle before it hits the ground. Then he explains to the stunned Texan: "Where I'm from, we have more Californians than we need, and this bottle is worth 5 cents."

      But seriously, no laws have been passed. All they are doing is studying a problem: "If your roads are paid for by a gas tax, how do you pay for roads when electric and hybrid cars start eating into your gas tax revenues?" That is a good question, worthy of some study. I think there must be a better idean than a transponder to record mileage on Oregon roads. What if you drive on private roads a lot?
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:21PM (#4994919) Homepage Journal

    For once, macho-dudes might actually consider using a roadmap rather than driving around lost.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:22PM (#4994922)
    ...GPS for road taxes. Uh huh, sure.

    The Portland Police will just use this so they know you're far from home and they can rifle through your garbage with impunity.
  • No reason given? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bwalling ( 195998 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:22PM (#4994926) Homepage
    The article fails to say why they would do this. Why not just increase the gas tax if you want more money? At least your citizens get relieved of some of the burden of the gas tax because visitors to the state pay as well. With this GPS thing, it will cost a lot to implement, and no visiting cars will pay the tax. Seems like a losing situation for the taxpayers of Oregon.
    • > The article fails to say why they would do this.

      Yes it does. They say that their gas tax revenue decreases as cars become more fuel efficient (especially with hybrids). The mileage tax would be based on the current gas-tax rate.

      Of course, part of what drives people to adopt fuel efficient cars is the savings. If Oregon decides to reduce those savings, they can expect a proportional reduction in the rate people switch to hybrids.
      • They say that their gas tax revenue decreases as cars become more fuel efficient (especially with hybrids). The mileage tax would be based on the current gas-tax rate.

        They can simply increase the rate of the gas tax...
      • by isdnip ( 49656 )
        So what they're proposing, in effect, is a shift of money from Prius drivers to Hummer drivers. Go buy that huge Luxury Truck ("SUV" to the marketeers), folks; the price of gas will fall, and Ford Excursions will pay the same mileage-based rate as Honda Impacts.

        This proposal is incredibly counterproductive. I think the gas tax should be raised, regularly (e.g., 5c/year), to discourage heavy consumption. And btw lightweight fuel-efficient vehicles wear out roads less than huge testosterone trucks.
    • Seems like a losing situation for the taxpayers of Oregon.

      Whoa! That sounded just like a clip from politician's weekly radio address on CNN!

      All it needs now is a followup like "...and it will only benifit special interest groups and their agendas" =)

    • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:39PM (#4995034) Homepage Journal
      Why? Why settle for a simple, proven, cost-effective solution for increasing revenue when you can go for the technologically-advanced, bureaucratically-unmanageable, intrusive, expensive and utterly ridiculous solution? This is Oregon, after all.

      Plus don't forget all the potential for using anti-terror efforts as an excuse for tracking citizens' movements or other bald-faced power grabs.

      This is what happens when a bunch of technically- naive (i.e. most) politicians get ahold of a copy of Wired.

      • I was there once and the lady who insisted on pumping my gas for me then drops the gas cap on the ground, getting it all dirty.

        God knows how much gunk got in the engine because of that.

        Good thing it was a lease.
      • Why? Here's WHY! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Newer Guy ( 520108 )
        "The gas tax would remain in effect. In paying the new tax, drivers would get credit for gas tax paid." This is a way to get MORE money! Get long do you think they'll get credit? One year? Two years? Certainly not more then that! This is another law like the seat belt law. They slide it in under the voter's nose by saying: "It's only 15 bucks and we won't enforce it unless you get stopped for something else" Well, guess what? Here in CA that lasted about 3 years. Now it's 35 bucks and they CAN pull you over just for not wearing a set belt! This is how Govt. works. Crack the door open an inch for them and the next thing you know there IS no door!
    • The huge advantage in London is you charge different fees for different roads. So downtown, where road space is extremely valuable, they charge people more for using it. This also has the side benefit of encouraging people to use public transportation. I suspect they want to do the same in Oregon.

      The huge disadvantage: privacy. How on Earth do they think they can protect the privacy of drivers in Oregon? Today, phone logs and account information are accessible to anyone with shady connections and cash. And even if the information somehow stayed within the government, how does it justify digging so deeply into the privacy of its citizens?
      • by Nightlight3 ( 248096 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @07:17PM (#4995596)
        The huge disadvantage: privacy.

        Whether it is disadvantage depends on where you are looking from. Increase in state control over individuals is an advantage for the state (recall the Poindexter's "scientia est potentia"). This is probably why it is being pushed by the bureaucrats.

        The same way the internet filters in libraries got rammed through dressed up in 'protecting the children' rationale. Or the never ending 'war on drugs' which has done more damage to privacy and freedom than any other single 'noble cause' (to say nothing of damage to the pocketbooks of public which finances both sides in the war, as victims of increased taxes and other property crimes).

  • by happyhippy ( 526970 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:23PM (#4994928)
    What stops the car owner from taking the GPS black box out of the car and driving along for free?

    You still are going to need people on the road to visually see if a car has paid or not. So whats the point of making it GPS?

    The UK one being introduced is not GPS but instead relies of computer character recognition of number plates. Its most likely doomed to fail.

    • The point of making it GPS is so that the milage inside of the state can be tracked and not outside. This isn't so much of an issue in the British Isles I would imagine.
    • by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@mon k e l e c t r i c . com> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:30PM (#4995346)
      What stops the car owner from taking the GPS black box out of the car and driving along for free?

      I think this is a case of legislators not understanding technology. It amazes me how every time a new technology is invented some legislative body gets wet over how to make money from it. Civilian GPS is *extremely weak* on purpose. It only works if you have a clear *line of sight* to the sky. Which means the GPS antenna would have to be mounted on the roof or the front or back hood of the car to work. How many sports car owners will be willing to screw up their vehicles (vipers, corvettes... etc) and mount this antenna there (not to mention it would look ridiculous)? Then all you would have to do to disable the GPS would be to cover the antenna. The system couldn't report loosing the GPS signal either because you would loose it all the time - in tunnels, in parking structures, in garages, while being towed, under tree cover, during bad weather, etc.

      This tax would do create an enforcement nightmare. They would have to create a new department to regulate/distribute/license/collect taxes on the devices, and it would have to be supported by draconian laws and penalties. It would create another measure/counter-measure arms race, and as we've seen in private industry, the enforcer rarely wins.

      Lastly, the tax isn't efficient, and this is what scares me the most. Lets say that through mass production, the GPS devices cost 100$ for the consumer, and 50$ to install. Who will have to pay that cost? The taxpayer of course ... now to recover 150$ at the tax rate they mentioned of 1.25 cents/mile you would have to drive about 12,000 miles. Here in California, the normal mileage rate is considered to be 8 - 10k/year. So generously, the first year of taxes are wasted because they could have just collected the 150$ the device cost from you and had the money directly, instead of forcing you to pay for the device, pay for collection and enforcement, and THEN pay a tax.

      • Salem, Oregon: Some interesting data has come from Oregon's mandated installation of GPS receivers in vehicles (for the purpose of levying road use taxes). Transportation officials report that Oregon drivers are travelling much greater distances since the Department of Defense turned GPS (Global Positioning System) Selective Availability back on. Selective Availability, which causes positional errors on the order of 100 meters, is a means to prevent hostile countries and terrorists from using GPS to accurately target weapons. It was turned back on at the request of the Bush administration as part of its War on Terrorism.

        Oregon officials are completely perplexed. Rather than stopping for traffic signals, it appears that Oregon drivers are driving in slow, random patterns within a 200 meter diameter area of the signal. Similarly, commercial vehicles like cabs and delivery vehicles in Oregon are also electing to drive in these same slow, meandering patterns rather than sitting still.

        Confusing as the situation may be, Oregon transportation officials are patting themselves on the back for having thought of collecting road use tax based on GPS data collected from in-car receivers. Said one official who spoke off the record "the tax has proven to be a windfall, even though we never understood the strange driving habits of Oregonians before."
  • by beamdriver ( 554241 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:23PM (#4994931) Homepage
    The more you drive, the more gas you buy and no need for big brother to put his hairy eyeball on oyu.
    • by bwalling ( 195998 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:30PM (#4994978) Homepage
      Maybe the rich snobs in their Lincoln Navigators and Ford Excursions don't like paying more than the poor guy in the Geo Metro?
      • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:42PM (#4995058) Journal
        Maybe the rich snobs in their Lincoln Navigators and Ford Excursions don't like paying more than the poor guy in the Geo Metro?

        Right! Because people who drive heavier vehicles don't cause any more wear to the roads...oh, wait...

        Granted, people who drive hybrids or all-electric vehicles (or CNG or propane, for that matter) get a free (or at least discounted) ride with gasoline taxes. I think they deserve it for keeping the state's air cleaner.

        If Oregon was really interested in going after the real source of wear and tear on the highways, they'd be taxing the hell out of large trucks--but that wouldn't fly with any number of well-funded lobbyists, so this sort of ridiculous overly complicated scheme comes up instead.

      • by Artifex ( 18308 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:34PM (#4995356) Journal
        Maybe the rich snobs in their Lincoln Navigators and Ford Excursions don't like paying more than the poor guy in the Geo Metro?

        What's really sad about this, is that rich people are still less affected (as a percentage of their income) than poor people are. And before you say that poor people can just use Tri-Met [] or some other public transport, remember how much of Oregon is rural.

        By the way, if I still lived there, my first challenge to that law would be to have them prove that my car wasn't on a flatbed truck when it was moving around, with the flatbed truck presumably reporting its own movements for taxation purposes, already. And I'd like to see them try to charge me for building an encasing box for the unit to block GPS reception when I'm not at the inspection site, if they win that battle.
    • But the hairy eyeball is the real point of it all, just finding yet another way to tax you is only an added benefit.
    • by MacAndrew ( 463832 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:07PM (#4995204) Homepage
      If you look at the OR DOT preliminary report [] the basic reason is that fuel tax revenue are declining. Why? Increased fuel efficiency of all things! They are particularly concerned about hybrids which you know get double mileage -- and so pay half the tax. You can imagine what horror electric vehicles would bring.

      So I guess they are trying not to discriminate against older and larger cars, who would pay much more fuel tax than hybrid, esp. as they raised the tax rate to compensate. An alternative might be a direct ad valorum tax on each automobile, paid with registration -- that would cut against expensive and new cars, unfortunately discouraging trading up.

      I am sympathetic with their need to maintain constant income, it's how they maintain the roads. As for their methods?

      A bizarre side effect of a good thing, I'll say.
  • Wha? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rjamestaylor ( 117847 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:23PM (#4994932) Journal
    • To protect the driver's privacy, it would be illegal to track the driver in real-time.

    Good thing no one breaks laws. Good thing that people can't change laws once written. Good thing there is no privacy challenge related to non-real-time data collection.

    Good thing I DON'T LIVE IN OREGON.

  • umm (Score:2, Interesting)

    I know there are a few differences in gas mileage etc. but.. don't state gasoline taxes pretty much do the same thing? (If you use gas for say a tractor, you can deduct it from your taxes in most states..)
    • It's really surprising that gas stations don't market themselves like other products do, where the price tag contains the true price and the taxes are added when you pay. Gas would look something like "70 cents/gal + Taxes".
  • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:25PM (#4994939) Homepage Journal
    Can you imagine having a mandatory GPS in the Pioneering days? The Oregon Trail game sure would have been different:

    Travelled: precisely 15.24 miles today.
    Health: Pa died of snake bite.
  • Will the satellite GPS system go out during rainy weather? Satellite TV does that from time to time. Isn't that region of the country known for rainy weather?
  • I didn't know Britain had interests in Oregon... ;)
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      I didn't know Britain had interests in Oregon... ;)

      Are you kidding? Fifty-four fourty or fight, dude! :)
  • Just increase the tax on gasoline instead of having a tax based on mileage. That would be perfectly fair, because the vehicles that use more gas are the ones that cause more wear & tear to the roads anyway.
  • Hmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    So a couple of issues come to mind immediately:

    -- what stops the state or federal govt (or a malicious third-party, like a stalker) from tracking where you go?

    -- how does Oregon collect from out-of-state travellers?

    If the purpose of the law is to collect revenue for road usage, what about this can't be done via conventional toll roads, with the use of "EZPass"-style transponders to collect payment?

    This is probably cheaper and certainly a more robust way to handle road usage costs than going to an untested and privacy-violating GPS system.

    Is Oregon a test-bed for how the government can track the movements of its largely car-bound citizens?

  • Cannot be done! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LostCluster ( 625375 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:27PM (#4994957)
    Thankfully, this is a law "being considered" by legislators who haven't yet been hit with the reality that this tax is unenforcable, and therefore won't work.

    The problem is, the "Good Faith and Credit Clause" of the U.S. Constitution means that licenses issed by any state are valid in all fifty. What's more, a car with California plates can legally drive on Oregon roads.

    The thing is, Oregon cannot require California-registered cars (or cars registered to any of the 49 other states) to have their tracking devices.

    Another cause of death: Suddenly every road in the state effectively becomes a toll road. That'll cost them in federal highway funds, as toll roads in theory are supposed to be spending those tolls on their own repairs. And, you can surely bet the neighboring states' representives will see to it that Oregon loses all their highway funds for implamenting this kind of tax.

    So, it's a nice chance to beat up a clueless state legislator or two for getting a little too 1984-ish on us... but there's really nothing to fear here. This law is D.O.A.
    • Citizens ALREADY have the right to travel. Proof? Check here for documented cases. []

      prairies, n.: Vast plains covered by treeless forests.
      - Anonymous

    • In Maryland, you _have_ to get Maryland plates within a year if you live in-state. And get a MD license. So Maryland could do this sort of wacko scheme.
      • Yet residency is a matter of interpretation. Hillary Clinton's claim to residency in the state of New York is weak, yet it's strong enough for her to legally be elected Senator representing that state.

        It just takes one state with easy to qualify residency standards, and everybody will suddenly become a "resident" of that state, and Oregon would have no way to inflict that requirement on a visitor from another state who just happens to own property in Oregon.

        That "within a year" loophole leaves a lot of wiggle room.
    • Re:Cannot be done! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gilroy ( 155262 )
      Blockquoth the poster:

      The thing is, Oregon cannot require California-registered cars (or cars registered to any of the 49 other states) to have their tracking devices.

      But they can -- and probably already do -- require Oregon residents to drive cars registered in Oregon. And they could make the GPS box required to pass inspection, prior to getting registration. This'll only affect Oregonians, unless it works, in which case some blockhead will immediately call for a nationwide system to collect tolls on, say, the Interstates.
    • "Good Faith and Credit Clause"

      Actually, it's Full Faith. Nothing requires states to act in good faith. :)

      Someone else mentions the right to travel, which refers not to travel so much as discrimination against out-of-state immigrants with respect to things like welfare benefits and voter registration. Irrelevant here; there is nothing discriminatory about requiring everyone to pay for the road they drive on.
  • First of all, this is an invation of privacy. The State government has no right to know how many miles I drive or where I drive.

    Secondly, this tax will discriminate against those people who are forced to drive more miles then others because of their occupation or place of residence.
    • First of all, this is an invation of privacy. The State government has no right to know how many miles I drive or where I drive.

      I think it is an invasion of privacy, but they do have the right to know where and how many miles you drive. It's perfectly legal for a police officer to follow you around, noting such data. Silly, yes, but legal.

      Secondly, this tax will discriminate against those people who are forced to drive more miles then others because of their occupation or place of residence.

      Aren't those same people then being discriminated against by having to pay more in gas? Perhaps if the state mandated where you live and work, this argument would work.

      Don't get me wrong; I don't like the thought of the government (state or federal) having the ability to track my driving via GPS. I'm certain that such records would soon be available to law enforcement - and probably without even needing a warrant, thanks to things like "Homeland Security". Like many other posters, I don't see why they wouldn't just raise the gas tax. Or if they really want to tax based on mileage rather than how much gas you use, why not just use a glorified odometer rather than a complex and expensive GPS system? I suppose that they could tax certain roadways more with a GPS, but I don't think that ability would justify tracking all driving citizens.
    • First of all, this is an invation of privacy. The State government has no right to know how many miles I drive or where I drive.

      No argument here.

      Secondly, this tax will discriminate against those people who are forced to drive more miles then others because of their occupation or place of residence.

      Ok, now time to argue. Why shouldn't we discriminate against those who have to drive more miles to their occupation? Why can't they live closer to where they work? We'd certainly be easier on the environment if everyone drove 3 miles to work instead of 20...
  • Yeah, this'll work (Score:3, Informative)

    by pirodude ( 54707 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:29PM (#4994970)
    Just jam the gps signal.

    http://www.phrack-dont-give-a-shit-about-dmca.or g/ show.php?p=60&a=13
    • GPS can be jammed regionally. I wonder if it could be rammed though Congress that any state that tries to enact this hairbrained tax scheme gets their GPS signal accuracy degraded to an annoying margin of error until they repeal it.
    • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:42PM (#4995059) Homepage Journal
      Blockquoth the poster:

      Just jam the gps signal.

      *Sigh* I have this problem with my students, too. The "GPS signal" is actually many radio signals, all of them out in the open and conveying no position data on you. That's right -- the GPS satellites don't tell you where you are. The GPS satellites tell you where the GPS satellites are, via the timing data they broadcast. Note that, too: they broadcast.

      A tracking system needs something more than a GPS receiver (and note that, too: "receiver"). There must be some sort of transmitter as well; that's not part of GPS. It's probably be some cell-based thing, but could be just a radio.

      So all your paranoids can go dig your shiny new GPS receiver out of the trash. A receiver can't betray your location to The Man.

  • by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:30PM (#4994974)
    This GPS thing assumes that every mile driven inside Oregon is somehow a public road. I imagine some Oregonians have large ranches, and they can rack up some miles "riding fences." For that matter, would horses have to wear the silly thing?
  • Teenagers rarely by cars worth a damn, they are going to make these kids buy a piece of hardware worth more then their car?

    And what about all the people in the state? Sure GPS units have gone down in price but they still aren't cheap. SO does that mean the State will give a voucher for the units to make it cheaper? No didn't think so.

    This law will be defeated because it discriminates against the poor.
    • Teenagers rarely by cars worth a damn, they are going to make these kids buy a piece of hardware worth more then their car?

      Did ya ever see the stereo's in those POS's owned by most teens? It often increases the value of the car by an order of magnitude :-)

  • Most states already record your vehicle milage at each pass through the emissions check! This happens either every year or every other year when tabs are due...they could just use that figure to calculate the tax without the implications of "where were you on the night of Friday December 13th" type measures.

    Or even simpler, just apply the tax to gas with the dual effect of driving (pun intended) people towards more fuel efficient cars.

    Having this type of tracking information will only lead to more invasive government...and records which could be abused. I grew up in Oregon, and I don't think the people there would go for "manditory GPS tracking" of their might start to see a lot of tin cans mounted above the GPS receivers if the state forces this stupid/invasive measure through.
    • Most states already record your vehicle milage at each pass through the emissions check! This happens either every year or every other year when tabs are due...they could just use that figure to calculate the tax without the implications of "where were you on the night of Friday December 13th" type measures.

      What about people who live right near the border of another state or country? Can your state prove that the majority of the miles driven were within your state? Heck, even people who don't live right near a border could rack up a fair amount of out-of-state mileage. There'd be a hell of a stink raised if states tried to base your taxes on your yearly mileage...
  • road taxes were often levied on the basis of miles travled using a technology called "toll boothes."

    I seem to vaguely recall something called a "gasoline tax" as well, which was supposed to have the same effect. Not to mention various levies on tires, which, again, are paid directly in relation to miles traveled.

    And now that I think of it, didn't cars used to have something in them specifically to recored miles traveled *already*?

    Of course the GPS boxes will never *ever* be used to actually record the movements and whereabouts of citizens "for the children" or to "combat terrorism," no siree Bob!

  • ..,gives you a new meaning to driving in a figure 8
  • by Lucas Membrane ( 524640 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:34PM (#4994995)
    It has come to the attention of many of the affluent SUV owners that low-income people and students and other undesirables drive economical cars and drive many miles on not much gasoline and are thus not paying their fair share of gasoline taxes and are thereby beating the system. Thus, the affluent want to change the system to tax miles instead of fuel. Nevermind that the fuel tax is easy and economical to collect. Never mind that road wear increases more than linearly with vehicle weight. Never mind that out-of-state vehicles will ride free. Never mind that dependence on foreign oil because of large vehicles is a huge problem for anyone trying to give the US a rational foreign policy. Let's just help the people with the money.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:34PM (#4994996) Homepage
    Installing a jammer (or just disabling the GPS otherwise) should be extremely easy, what will happen then? The car can't very well stop (would be an ugly Denial-Of-Driving attack) and you can't really take them to court and require that you must only drive in places where you can get a signal (e.g. no tunnels) either. Oh well...

  • by nitzmahone ( 164842 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:34PM (#4995003)
    As an Oregon resident, I first got wind of this about six months ago... Privacy was my first thought as well. Thankfully, the system they're looking at can't track vehicles in realtime, as it's a GPS receiver unit only. There is no transmitter.

    My guess is that, no matter how well designed, this system is doomed from the start- it's just too complex for John Q. Taxpayer to understand. People in Oregon, just like the rest of the country, don't like new taxes. That's why we've managed to be one of the last holdouts for no sales tax, and we just soundly defeated a Canadian-style universal healthcare bill that would have laid ruin to the state's economy.

  • This is very interesting...I was in a discussion last night with some friends, which touched on why it was taking so long to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, and to come up with alternative methods of powering automobiles. Aside from the obvious commercial interests, the notion that the government itself has a great deal to lose from the increased efficiency of automobiles is something I hadn't considered. Because the government has revenue at stake, it would seem makes any effort to "mandate" increased fuel economy in newer cars somewhat suspect. Even if we set this aside, we certainly couldn't have anything that would adversely impact Bush Oil. No, no...definitely not.

    What amuses me the most I think, is what while science has been marching forward with newer technologies to increase fuel efficiency (albeit at a snail's pace), the technology to create a road surface that is less susceptible to the wear and tear imposed by day-to-day traffic is something that appears to be somewhat elusive. Another entrenched interest, perhaps?
  • It seems to me like GPS is unnecisary, if they're tracking milage, why do they need to know where you go? It would be a lot less Big Brotherish if they just had a device that tracked your odometer and shut off when you left the state. The whole GPS part seems useless to me except as a tracking device.
    • I'm pretty sure that the person or persons that came up with this little idea are secretly pushing this scheme to others involved in the law making process as the better way because it can help the police do their job better against criminals.
  • wouldn't increasing the tax on gas make more sense? it would help encourage people to be even more concientious and maybe even downgrade from the suv thier used to- if you use a more wasteful vehicle then you should pay more, I don't think milage should be the only factor. I don't live in Oregon or drive- I ride a bike and use public transit and I'm completely aware that these are not options for everyone.
  • by jonr ( 1130 )
    How stupid is that? Why not add tax to gas/diesel? That is the simplest way. Why go through all kinds of creating technical problems when simple solutions exists?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )
      Increasing the gas tax would offend all the affluent SUV drivers. Increasing the diesel tax would piss off the trucking industry and its lobbyists. Why do that when you can just tax the poor car-driving people with no lobbyists?
      • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        Because those poor car-driver people hold most of the majority of the votes. Corporations can lobby like hell and trick some voters by paying for lots of commercials but individuals still hold the power. Yes SUV ownsers are not immune either and are likely to vote republican anyway as most upper class suburbans do. Believe me when I say republicans will be elected left and right on all levels of the state government if this goes through. They will obviously kill it.

        The affluent SUV drivers pay alot of money with taxes anyway since their vehicles are gas guzzlers. With the population growing in Oregon and the new statistics showing more then half of the new cars being sold are SUV's and trucks there is no need for a tax increase. Money is pouring in. The problem I see is poor money management. Should the gasoline tax be used for the state and federal department of transporation or to the military for a cold war that no longer exists?

        The answer to this is the second option. The government should not pay a fuel tax for other programs and then figure out how to tax drivers yet again to pay for the roads. The department of transporation should recieve most of the gasoline tax but they aren't and believe me the tax is bringing in lots of money thanks to gas guzzlers. IF they did this then they would no longer need to keep track of our driven habits to support more government spending.

  • This is pure speculation, but I think it is reasonable. States are scrambling to get whatever income they can. With the expense of homeland-security et al, States are falling further in to deficit spending. It sounds like Oregon is doing something creative and useful to increase their revenues. The article says that Oregon is keeping the gas tax, so out-of-state cars will still pay at the pump. It goes on to say that the GPS mileage tax will also be collected at the pump, except that the mileage tax will be credited toward the gas tax. This will reward drivers of fuel efficient cars as well as increase state revenues. And, we know that its always about money.
  • Seems like a bad idea on many fronts, but most importantly that of privacy. I note that they won't "real time track" you, but what do you want to bet that the data regarding where you've been will be downloaded along with the miles driven? My first suggestion is to require that all Oregon elected officials have to make their GPS data publicly available if this system is instituted. That ought to kill it.
  • by rufusdufus ( 450462 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:43PM (#4995067)
    Taxing cars on the number of miles they drive, rather than the amount of fuel they consume in effect punishes people with fuel efficient cars. With current gas taxes, people who drive vehicles which have poor gas mileage (such as SUVs and sports cars) pay more tax than those who drive more efficient vehicles like Geos and Insights.

    Of course the whole idea of using GPS to track mileage is ludicrous. GPS tracking fails in many situations such as tunnels and even heavy weather. Not to mention that they take time to 'lock on' to the satellite signal, often times longer than the trip itself. And of course buying a GPS device for every car would cost an outrageous amount of money.

    The whole idea is DOA.
  • This tax pays for roads, thus the mention of higher tax for studded tires. But while a fuel tax to some extent measures likely road wear, a per-mile tax per vehicle is useless for those purposes. What's the incentive to drive a small, light vehicle, when you get taxed the same per mile as someone in their 7700lbs Ford Monstrosity? There's a rather confusing (or confused) suggestion that the current Oregon gasoline tax will be retained as well, and that this tax will be an either/or, but that's hard to believe, as all that would achieve would be to introduce extra administration fees for no extra tax revenue.

    The suggestion that real time tracking will be "illegal" is simply laughable. The first time law enforcement has a cause celebre (kidnapped Aryan child?), they'll demand access, and they'll be given it. The only question is whether it will be used routinely by the like of Ashcrofts Federal Illumatus Agency to identify suspicious behaviour. I rather suspect that this will depend entirely on how affordable this turns out to be, not on any question of privacy.

    While it's always tempting to see conspiracy theories everywhere, in this case it's very hard to see what else it could be. Who's this going to be good for? Big Oil. Ashcroft's Watchmen. Pretty much nobody else, and certainly not the citizens of the State of Oregon.

  • For some reason my car has been parked in the same place for the whole last year..
  • by numbsafari ( 139135 ) <swilson.bsd4us@org> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:51PM (#4995109)
    I live near Philadelphia, and we have this thing called the Pennsylvania Turnpike. You get a ticket when you enter the Turnpike, and you pay a toll when you exit based upon how far you drive. It's completely anonymous because it is cash-based. Granted, there's the new EasyPass which could be used nefariously, but you still have the cash option. To the best of my knowledge the money earned from the tolls is used only for the maintenance of the Turnpike, as well as police enforcement, emergency response and anything else related to it. So, it basically takes the major state-wide highway system out of the budget of the state. This doesn't necessarily resolve paying welfare or anything like that, but it makes for one fewer thing for the state to have to deal with. Does this punish fuel efficient drivers? Not really, because they make out on cheaper gas taxes. Does this punish local residents? Not really, because everybody who uses the road has to pay. Does this solve world hunger? No. But neither will anything else government does. I hated the Turnpike concept when I got here, now I think it's the best. It doesn't solve the problems of maintaining local roadways, but it does solve the highway funding problem.
  • by Colonel Panic ( 15235 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:53PM (#4995114)
    First off, I really doubt this will get anywhere beyond the testing stage and hopefully it won't even get that far as it would be a huge waste of money.

    Besides being an idiotic idea technically - costs for the GPS boxen (of course they'll probably want to charge the drivers for the box - why not just have everybody cough up the cost of a GPS box when they register their car and actually apply that money to roads instead of the GPS box, but I digress), tracking all of those cars, trying to make sure people don't disconnect them - it's not politically viable. Remember this is a referendum state. For something this far-reaching the legislature will be afraid to just enact it without a vote of the people - that's pretty much how it works here.

    Currently some of the beaurocrats are whining about how they're not getting their gas-tax money from all of those folks driving hybrids (must be about 10 of them in the state by now, so it's a major crisis). Problem is, those hybrids do run on gas, they just do it much more efficiently. One would think that using less gas would be something the state would try to encourage instead of wringing their hands trying to figure out how they can spend $millions in order to make not much more money than they are now.

    Hopefully, the bozo beaurocrat that came up with this idiotic idea will be promptly fired.
  • Use based taxes.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jsimon12 ( 207119 ) <tzzhc4@yahoo. c o m> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:56PM (#4995138) Homepage
    I am all for use based taxes, but before they implement such a system they need to get rid of all the other taxes, as use based means you only pay for what you use. If you don't drive, you don't pay, if you don't send your kids to public school you don't pay, etc etc etc. But odds are the systems like these won't be implemented in that fashion. I am sure this new "Road Tax" will simply be implemneted on top of all the existing taxes. Oh well, prepare to be taxed into oblivion.
  • by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:57PM (#4995151)
    Doesn't it seem like there should be an absolute limit on the amount of money that the Governments (State, Local and Federal) should be allowed to take from individuals?

    Each Government should be able to set an amount of money that is required to provide the services for which they were formed. This is called a realistic budget.

    It seems to me that the Government mission has become clouded. Maybe our officials need to sit down and define the scope of government in the context of our State and Federal constitutions. Just because the Constitution does not prohibit government from entering into a particular area does not mean that they are mandated to do so.

    Why is it that every time a new technology surfaces that enables something to be measured, government feels the need to use it to extract more money from its citizens?

    Taxing the use of our roads seems like a good idea except that whenever you tax an action that is a right you change that action from being a right to a privilege. For example: we have a right to free speech. If your local government made a law that required a permit to speak it would in effect be saying that you do not have a right to speech that speech is a privilege. Rights cannot be taken away without due process.

    It has been successfully argued that driving a car is a privilege not a right even though one of our rights allows freedom to travel. The constitution obviously does not specify the method of travel so I guess that's deemed to mean that walking cannot be taxed. Personally I feel that it's very close to the constitutional line. But then what do I know.

    Anyway to end this rant I would ask Oregon's Government to consider the question; Just because you may have the technology to use GPS to extract more money from your people, is it really the right thing to do?

    • Driving is not taxed, but vehicles are (sales tax) and so is fuel (duty, sales tax, whatever it is called in your neck of the woods). In the same way, walking is not taxed, but shoes and food usually are.

      If you can figure out a (legal!) way of driving a car without buying it (maybe building your own?) and you can obtain fuel without buying it OTC (maybe looking at alcohol powered vehicles?) then you can drive without paying tax.
  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:11PM (#4995226)
    Boy, it seem like this is a January Fools day article. The obvious issues, already stated are:

    Gas taxes work better, and promotes lower weight better milage veichels; this law would do the opposite.

    The privacy issues (which I believe to be the real reason the proposal is being made) are huge.

    But consider also:

    Cars already have a way to measure miles on the road that would not involve a large extra cost to the consumer - an odometer. It could be read when the car's license is renewed, of if Oregon has inspections at that time, and people could be taxed accordingly. For those who do a lot of out of state travel (as if that's a real issue), they could supply documentation of such (such as out of state gas receipts) with their taxes and get a rebate. If you don't like that approach, even remote reading odometers for recording mileage at the boarders (for checking people in and out based on mileage) would be less expensive and less obtrusive than trying to track everyone in the state by GPS.

  • by EABinGA ( 253382 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:15PM (#4995244)
    From the Article...

    To protect drivers' privacy, using the system to track cars in real time would be illegal.

    Right. Just like social security numbers weren't supposed to be used for identification purposes. []
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:21PM (#4995287)
    GPS is simply not needed for this. Oregon should just increase the gas tax. Not only does that tax miles driven, it also encourages the use of more fuel efficient vehicles and is completely anonymous.

    If Oregon wants to give special treatment to selected groups (truck drivers, low income, etc.), they can tax diesel differently, issue identification that would let these groups pay reduced taxes right at the pump, or institute a rebate program.

    The use of GPS for this purpose is so stupid that it suggests to me that there may be a hidden agenda: get the GPS into vehicles and start using it for tracking and surveillance. Or, perhaps, it's simple political stupidity: politicians think that increasing gas taxes is political suicide, but voters are too stupid to figure out thie Rube Goldberg proposal. Or maybe it's just heavy lobbying from electronics manufacturers.

  • by valkraider ( 611225 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:02PM (#4995812) Journal
    Damn. I read through all these comments, and yearn for the days when /. readers used to be SMART.

    I am an Oregon resident, and this has been analyzed and discussed locally and all that LONG before it made any national news streams - or /.

    Oregon's laws are no better or worse than anywhere else in the country. Every state has sucky laws. Every state has screwed up government. Every state has bad taxing schemes. Every state has areas with bad roads, crummy schools, or high crime. Every state also has some good stuffs, nice places, good policies - what have you. Portland has some strange laws (It is illegal to ride a bycicle on the streets downtown) and some good ones (they were the first major city to oficially legalize skateboarding and give skateboarders rights and responsibilities).

    1. Oregon is looking at this system for the LONG TERM future, not immediate gain. The simple truth is that Petrolium based fuels are going to be replaced with other mechanisms. They are just THINKING of how they will be able to still provide roads when no one is buy buying gasoline any more. (Flashes of "Mr Fusion" powerd cars come to mind). "OUR ROADS SUCK - WE WANT MORE, BETTER ROADS!!! What do you MEAN you want us to PAY for them? Why should we have to PAY for them?"

    2. These things you have been reading about are all trial programs to test the viability. They are planning on passing legislation to allow them to TEST these types of systems with voluntary participants. The results of these tests will be used to design the real system. (with the speed of state govt, it'll be a while.)

    3. Part of the needs of these tests is to design a system that charges appropriately. Some of the discussed options is having the mileage rate also be based on vehicle weight, size, number of axels, etc... So that a smaller lighter vehicle won't pay as much as a large heavy one.

    4. Outsiders will just pay the regular gas tax for now. Just like they do currently. If you buy gas in a state - any state - and you pay their gas taxes, you are helping to pay for their roads. If you pass through the state without buying gas - you are using the roads at a discount. (Some of all roads is paid for with federal dollars and federal gas taxes - so no one gets a completely free ride).

    5. GPS is important so that they don't bill people for miles they drive outside of Oregon, or not on Oregon roads. The ultimate goal is for the GPS to only count miles driven on ROADS. We all know that GPS is not perfect, but we have to start figuring out something - and it is a place to start.

    6. I do have very real privacy concerns. The system is NOT real-time - but who is to say what info they actually record? Even if it is after the fact, it could be abused. "Lets see, this indicates you were in the vincinity of this crack house - we should search your home for drug paraphanalia." "Hmmm, looks like you broke the speed limit 38 times this month. Here is ticket."

    7. Any system would have to have the ability to detect tampering - much like cars computers do now (the dealership can tell if you have a chip or modified system) - and they would have to account for irregularities or weather problems. Our GPS devices we have now work pretty good here - except in forests. And since 2/3 of oregon residents live in the Willamette valley - full of dense forests - this could pose a problem.

    8. People REMEMBER: Gas taxes are usage fees THE SAME WAY but just collected differently. Currently, a large heavy vehicle will typically get much less mileage, and thus pay more per mile for usage. A motorcycle that gets 70mpg will pay much less gas tax, but also damages the road much less. If you drive a million miles a year - you pay gas taxes - thus mileage fees - evey gallon of gas you consume.

    9. Oregon already taxes trucks heavily. Deisel taxes are higher than gasoline taxes - which sucks for those who drive the 50mpg Volkswagen TDIs. In addition, Oregon taxes trucks on a weight / miles driven scale IN ADDITION to the fuel taxes. Pretty steeply as I understand it. Thats why we have so many weigh stations on our highways.

    10. There could be better ways. Toll roads. I always have thought they were a good choice - because then the people who use that specific road pay for it. Transponders. Could work just like toll roads - with less manpower requirements. Maybe a combination of all the solutions. Nothing is perfect.

    11. I *like* not having to pump my gas. Last night it was damn cold and raining sideways. I got to sit in a warm car while someone else froze. I always watch them and make sure they don't F up. And AFAIK Oregon is not the only state that it is illegal to pump your own gas, New Jersey the other maybe? One on the east coast anyway.

    12. The one most important thing they could do is either get rid of studded tires - or tax them heavily. They freaking destroy the roads! We get nice ruts - so deep you can take your hands off the steering wheel and let the car just steer itself in the "tracks". And they are ABSOLUTELY un needed. I ski regularly, and on a two wheel drive rear drive van - I make it just fine without studs. Have for 5 years now. Only need chains occasionally. People use studs forgetting that studded tires REDUCE your traction in wet or dry conditions. NW Oregon has mostly wet conditions. So by using studs you REDUCE your traction 99% of the time, so that the ONE day a year we MIGHT get Ice, or the once a week you ski, or the one time you need to go through the mountains - you will have traction. Dumbasses. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I love when it is a sunny warm spring day, and I am walking around in a short sleeved shirt downtown Portland, and cars are driving by clacking with studs. Good thing they had them, those bone dry roads can be treachorus.

    HELLO PEOPLE. STUFF IS NOT FREE. There is ALWAYS a cost somewhere. (I have heard people complaining that they had to pay a $3 use fee at a state park when before THAT policy they complained that trails that were washed out were not being fixed fast enough.)
  • by JimBobJoe ( 2758 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:23PM (#4995893)
    One thing (as far as I can tell unmentioned to this point) is the fact that Oregon has the lowest (or one of the lowest) yearly license fees in the nation--just $15. So low is it that the Oregon DOT had signs warning out of state drivers not to come to Oregon and register their vehicles.

    While some states have a yearly vehicle property tax (like Colorado, Taxachusetts, Rhode Island) that assesses a significant fee per year, most of that goes to local government for schools and stuff.

    Most states have a fee of $30-$80 /year, and that provides a nice revenue base that the state/local governments can depend on (for road financing) no matter how much people drive, and yet it still is not pricey enough to be severely regressive to the grandma who drives only 500 miles a year.

    Some states, like Michigan, have an ad valorem, which is based on the value of the vehicle, and so people with more expensive cars pay more (this isn't a property tax because it is a flat percentage, it isn't based on property tax millage, and the money goes to the state for funding roads, not the local government.) It is gently rising, and my friend with a 2002 Corvette pays about $120, which isn't severe for an expensive vehilcle (and it caps off at some value.) That is clearly a progressive system for road financing irrelevant to how much ya drive or how much wear and tear you put on the roads.

    New York has a system which has some type of base amount (like $40, but I can't remember what it is) and then adds some surcharge if the vehicle is heavy. That's essentially the same as the fuel tax, but once again, it offers a stable revenue base that fuel taxes can build off of.

    Another suggestion is to change the fuel tax system to a hybrid style. Most states that I know of assess a fuel tax on each gallon of gasoline sold (like in Ohio, it's 22 cents...I think.) Instead, Ohio could consider making it 18 cents per gallon sold, then add another 5 cents for every dollar's of gasoline sold. That way, if gas prices go up and sales go down, the revenue stream is a bit more stable (and it still works well if prices go down, and people end up buying more gasoline.

    At any rate, Michigan style ad valorem, New York vehicle weight surcharge, hybrid style gasoline taxes or simply raising yearly fees are significantly better ways of road financing than the complexity of a GPS system.)

  • by stevarooski ( 121971 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:33PM (#4995923) Homepage
    I actually first heard of this the other night from some friends of mine who are Oregon residents. They're pissed to all hell about this idea.

    Still, if they *must* tax drivers for driving, I'm wondering why in gods name the legislators are bothering with GPS? Why not take the route the East went and implement toll roads to increase revenue for the department of transportation? Hell, they could even get creative about it and charge more for road-damaging SUV's, which some other posters have mentioned.

    Yeah, this new law seems on the outside that it would raise all kinds of crazy cash, but it would seem to me to be far more expensive to set up and maintain. And then there will no doubt be legal challenges against it. All in all, far more trouble than its worth.

    If they really need to levy funds for transportation costs, it would make more sense to me (at least in the near future) to go the Jersey Turnpike route. Make drivers pay tolls every so many miles. The eastern states have been doing this for years, and it seems to work pretty well--i.e. it helps support their highway system, and people there don't mind it too much.

    Just a thought!

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27