Could Napa residents be charged a tax for every mile they drive, with a government GPS device tracking the distance?

Bay Area regional governments are studying the prospect of doing just that throughout the nine-county region as a way to plug money into roads and transit.

The money would go to support goals of reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions, while closing funding gaps created by the weakening value of the federal excise tax on gasoline. That tax, unchanged since the early 1990s, has been eroded by inflation.

At a joint meeting last week of the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, members voted to include the study a vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) tax in a broader environmental impact report for its long-term Plan Bay Area.

Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, the local representative to the MTC, said he’s confident the study will never be implemented.

If ever he ever has a chance to vote on the GPS-based fee, he would vote an “emphatic no,” he said.

“I don’t believe the commission will accept any kind of VMT tax,” Dodd said.

Nor did Dodd believe there’s much support for the tax at MTC. The VMT tax is merely one of several scenarios the regional agency is studying with ABAG that look at everything from congestion to air quality to sea level rise, he said.

Special interest groups bring forward ideas like a VMT tax, and it’s incumbent upon ABAG and MTC to study the issue, Dodd said. If nothing else, Dodd said the study will likely offers reasons not to do it.

Dodd said he didn’t support the tax because it essentially puts infrastructure cost onto the backs of Bay Area drivers.

“It would be inequitable to do it now,” Dodd said. “I think it’s very, very unfair and hard to take 50 years of infrastructure and put all of the cost moving forward on one small segment of the population.”

MTC studied the idea of a VMT tax in 2007 and 2008 as part of its Transportation 2035 Plan, and included the tax in an aggressive, albeit undoubtedly unpopular, pricing scenario.

In addition to the VMT tax, the transit panel also looked at parking surcharges of $1 per trip and congestion tolls of 25 cents per mile for driving on the freeway during peak commute periods. It concluded that these measures, if implemented, would increase the cost of driving from 39 cents per mile to $1.28 per mile for some trips.

The agency concluded at the time that pricing, along with land-use policies, was an effective means of achieving goals of reducing congestion, vehicle miles driven and emissions.

People who live and work in Napa County expressed a mix of opinions on the idea this week.

Dan Zador, a Napa resident for 10 years, said he was opposed to the notion of installing a GPS device to track every mile driven, but needed more information before formulating an opinion on the idea of a VMT tax.

“I’d be against a GPS device,” Zador said. “There’d be no reason for it. Tax the amount of gas you consume because it accomplishes the same thing.”

Yountville resident Shirley Fraser said she is opposed to the idea of the tax. Fraser said she once owned a business in Alameda and commuted back and forth from Yountville. She said she still drives to Walnut Creek and San Francisco four times a month.

“Nobody’s going to go for a GPS device on their car from the government,” Fraser said. “Are they crazy? I think it’s unfair to penalize people who have to drive. They should get their minds on other things.”

Vacaville resident Kevin Luckey, the dean of physical education at Napa Valley College, said he needed more information before opining on the tax. But he raised the larger question of how Bay Area residents intend to pay for infrastructure in the future.

“Selfishly, I don’t like it,” Luckey said. “On the other hand, it’s a situation where infrastructure needs to be paid for somehow.”

Luckey said the Bay Area’s infrastructure problems will worsen.

“We seem to really lag behind in taking care of our roads and bridges,” Luckey said. “Some kind of plan needs to come forward to make sure they’re taken care of, not just for us but for future generations.”

Luckey said he questioned how such a tax could be levied on the millions of tourists who come to Napa and the Bay Area every year, who amount to some of the heaviest users of local streets and roads.

Dodd said a more equitable solution to the problem — at least for Napa County — is a local sales tax dedicated for streets and roads maintenance, which county residents will vote on this fall.

“If we’re going to fix Napa we’ve got to do it ourselves,” Dodd said. “We also can’t lose sight of the fact that while we all pay sales tax, one-third of the sales tax is paid for by tourists.”

(28) comments


At first I was for this, like the idea of toll roads but looked at whole does the driving to where. OK most of your CEO's and big business types live near their offices or large company headquarters. The workers which in the quest of buying a home have moved further down the road to some far off land. Guess who would pay more in taxes and tolls, the lower and middle income worker. We either need to build more housing near people jobs, transit or start charging more to drive. None of of which is getting done in a car centered world.


I have been looking a bikes lately and there are some pretty cool electric bikes now. So maybe if we don't have to drive out of town this could be one solution for us, as far as gas consumption goes. But what of the tax? What can be taxed? Maybe raise the gas tax? Or maybe the gov. can just cut back on spending like we have all done. Were all on a budget so the gov. needs to be on one too. And a very tight one at that. Its time for everyone to live within their means and that includes the gov too.


Something for folks to consider, we already pay a "per mile" rate.
Using round numbers, if current gas tax is .50/gallon your tax per mile is relative to your car's mpg, and how far you drive So;
if you get 10mpg, you pay .05 cents per mile x 10K miles per year = $500, 25K =$1250
if you get 20mpg, you pay .025 cents per mile x 10K miles per year = $250, 25K =$625
if you get 30mpg you pay .0167 cents per mile x 10K miles per year = $166, 25K =$416
if you get 50mpg you pay .01 cents per mile x 10K miles per year = $100, 25K =$250

So if you want to pay less tax - get a more fuel efficient car!

Shouldn't electric cars be taxed at a rate per mile relative to gas tax to pay their driver's share of road maintenance?

Joe B

All these schemes to get more tax dollars, when are we going to expose and handle the gorilla in the room!


"Bay Area regional governments". Who elected these governments? Don't recall seeing anyone on the last ballot running for a position within this regional government body(s).

These regional governments that are being created to dictate how we live need to be abolished. We elect representatives to govern us. They need to do their jobs themselves or resign. Not invent these shadow government agencies to hide behind while enacting agenda they know full well their constituents would never support.


Badgerman is right-- increase the gas tax.


And? With the increase in hybrids and plug in cars increasing the gas tax puts an undue burden on only those that use gasoline while everyone that drives on the roads due the same amount of damage.


Actually the heavier the vehicle, the more wear it puts on the road. This is somewhat accounted for in that lighter vehicles use less fuel. The problem is alternative fuel vehicles may not be taxed or fully taxed.


"With the increase in hybrids and plug in cars" That is funny How many Volts has GM sold? Oh and News flash Hybrids still use alot of gas.


time to get out of abag . studies like these cost a lot and we are broke. the middle class and working poor would be further destroyed by these onerous new taxes .


Its not the tax that should outrage us, it's the invasion of our privacy with the GPS tracking. Big Brother at its finest.


We Colonists are getting tired of the King's taxation schemes.

When you start piling taxes ON TOP of other taxes, you've compounded the opportunities for corruption.

I think it's time to start over.


You know these great folks in office that really want us to drive hybrids and cut back on driving to keep the world from blowing up"Global Warming" I guess they didn't calculate that by all the hybrids on the road they would lose more revenue on gas tax due to much less being purchased. Oh ya and then they give you huge rebates when you buy a hybrid. These idiots have never run a business and if they did they would give away the farm in the first 12 months and then be living off the welfare system they have set up so that you can live on it for the rest of your life while we smart ones who know how to make money and not spend more than we make can fund these free programs. When will everyone just over throw the govt!!! It's time.


This is something new for Bill Dodd. He's actually opposing a new tax!! He supports every other tax and fee there is. He voted to raise bay area bridge fares saying the money would go to bridge maintenance, now the bridge fare money was spent on a commercial building and it is used as a ridiculously huge subsidy for rider fares on the new ferry in the south bay.

But I have confidence that Mr. Dodd is mellowing and maybe returning to his conservative roots. We'll see...


Are you KIDDING???? We pay more for gas than anyone else, especially here in the SF Bay area where there are more than 6 major refineries, bridge tolls are now $5.00 a shot; and NOW THEY WANT to TRACK our DAILY driving??? Time to Lawyer Up and start talking upon infringement on our freedom to movement!!! We already have these "black boxes" in all new vehicles that monitor your driving habits. ENOUGH!!! Simple economics is the answer as I know I drive less and less as gas prices rise - BUT THEN we know have "GREEN" cars now that don't use gas so we have to find more tax money somewhere!!!!! Next thing you know they will want to "Tax" my use of my bicycle!!


BTW - If you have a fastrack pass for the bridge tolls, you are already part of the way there. Caltrans reads your pass as you travel along the freeway to calculate the data that is on the signs that inform you how long your drive time is to a particular location.


Actually, it is not much different than just having toll roads as many folks who want to privatize government infrastructure would argue. Tolls to use the roads are a use tax.

I am against a GPS system because of the tracking potential - which is not necessary to calculate a use fee that is mileage based. No need to have a GPS system, just report annual mileage, and when the car is sold if the mileage doesn't match the records, the seller has to pay any back fees. This system has to be considered when there are vehicles (electric, gas electric hybrid, fuel cells, CNG) that do not use gas or diesel using the roads. These drivers are not paying their share of road maintenance that comes from taxes on fuel. Would this use fee be based on GVW? Should those who have smaller lighter cars pay less? Any one have a better idea?

Most new cars with SatNav likely already have this capability...


Since everyone uses the roads, everyone should pay for their construction and maintenance through sales taxes. Our tax structure needs to be completely re-done...

Bike To Work

There is a pay per mile tax in place now. It is the gas tax. However the the gas tax no longer pays for maintenance. Infrastructure is paid for with bonds that all taxpayers pay even if they do not drive. People who drive the most are being subsidized by rest of the tax base. Jamison Canyon and the South County improvements will not come from the gas tax. County roads like Mt. Veeder and local streets will get their improvement money from the gas tax.


At first I thought this whole idea was some ridiculous government conspiracy theory dreamed up by Fox News. I can't believe they are even wasting money on a study like this, because people will never accept it. A government GPS installed in a private vehicle is an outrageous invasion of privacy in my book. Get a new plan, ABAG.


This is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. Our state is unbelievable! Where do these people think we are all hiding the extra money we have? Gas already killing us at $4.00 per gallon. That's plenty of incentive to drive less in my opinion. We should be the best state in the nation and we are rapidly sinking lower and lower in many categories. Ridiculous ideas like this do not help.


Just one more reason California is the laughing stock of the world......


RC! I fearyou're right in that the seed now planted will bear rotten fruit a few years hence. Seems I voted twice on State ballot issues to require our State gov't to use state gasoline taxes only for transportation projects and not dump them into the general fund.


A government installed GPS in my car so a [new] government agency can identify and calculate how much -or how little- I drive that particular registered vehicle so I can get taxed accordingly for road use?

Whose brilliant minds come up with these options to solve BUDGET problems, and still get paid for doing so?
That's a scary thought 0_0


Well you can start planning to pay the fee now. As things like gay marriage and "medical" marijuana, Have been normalized so will a per mile tax. When it is put in place in 5 to 10 yrs If not sooner. #1 I will not live in CA so I do not care #2 Driving to the store to get Milk will cost you $8 We all know the per mile cost will be far more than .39 to $1.28 Wake up California your government,Wants to tax you out of your car and onto the bus. at some point you need to tell the government you elected to go to H-E Double Hockey Sticks.


The Bible never said anything about a tax like this, so it can't be right! Let me double marriage is a sin, women were formed from a rib, cutting your hair is a sin, tattoos are definitely a sin, we're all going to hell....hrm, nothing in here about a roads tax!


Yep, and the bible looked down on Publicans too. Now we have the new version that put a Re before the Publican to fend off god from condemning them to hell also, LOL!


GPS doesn't work 100% of the time.

On top of that they're basically asking us to pay at the pump and again for every mile we drive presumably because the road wear and tear will be paid for with this gas. But what about my lawn mower? The gas tax paid for my lawn mower that never goes on the road funds it. What if I use gas for off road vehicles or for generators that never put any damage into the road surface? Seems unfair no matter what. If the government requires a GPS device installed onto my car I think they may find my vehicles engine is very noisy on the bands GPS functions on.

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