Department of Transportation

Congress’s next surface transportation authorization bill should fund basic research, technology development, and pilot programs to begin moving the United States to a mileage-based user fee system (VMT system) by 2020.

The research should be overseen by a multi-modal body within U.S. DOT that combines technology, policy, tax administration, and systems expertise. As recommended by the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, the first set of studies should be wide-ranging and experimental, testing various self-selected VMT fee processes. Subsequent tests would be more prescriptive to facilitate the selection of a single, nationally interoperable system.

Congress should charge DOT with developing, by 2014, a national real-time traffic (traveler) information system, particularly in the top 100 metropolitan areas, and this vision should include the significant use of probe vehicles.

By 2014, the top 100 metropolitan areas should have at least 80 percent of freeway and arterial miles enabled by real-time traffic information systems (including incident notification, travel time, and travel speed data), and that information should be available in an interoperable format so that it can be used on any kind of Web, mobile, or in-vehicle application. States should make real-time traffic information freely available to the general public, akin to how the National Weather Service makes weather data available. In leveraging probe vehicles to collect real-time traffic information, the system should employ government vehicles, taxis, and even private fleets that would want to participate. For example, corporate vehicle fleets include hundreds of thousands of vehicles. If necessary, voluntary vehicles could receive a modest subsidy (such as a slightly reduced vehicle registration fee) for installing the probe device. States with cities in the top 100 metropolitan areas that do not achieve real-time traffic information collection and dissemination on 80 percent of their freeway and arterial roadways by 2014 should be penalized each year with fewer federal transportation dollars.

Government ID programs such as the Department of Defense’s Common Access Card and the Transportation Worker Identification Credential should move to an open architecture that allows electronic wallet applications to be housed on the card.

One key to driving innovation through procurement is to support open standards architectures. By adopting technologies that are interoperable with non-federal applications, federal procurement can help drive widespread adoption. An open architecture would allow these cards to house electronic wallet applications that would, for example, let employees load a contactless payment application issued by transit authorities so they would not have to have a separate SmarTrip card to ride the Washington, D.C. metro system (or those of other transit authorities). The functionality would be integrated into one single card, which could also support other functions, such as a debit card to pay for meals in government cafeterias or fees in parking garages.