Councilor thinks Metro should run regional VMT tax and tolling program

Metro problems, Metro solutions? (Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

[Hi everyone! I’m still in a hospital in southern Oregon with my dad, but I started looking into this story a few days ago and just started typing. I’m not back and working normal hours quite yet; but I hope to be back to Portland by Tuesday night! – Jonathan]

Councilor Rosenthal (Metro)

Two budget amendments proposed by Metro Councilor Gerritt Rosenthal last week would more firmly ensconce Portland’s regional planning agency as a key player in transportation funding talks that will be a top priority for state lawmakers during the 2025 legislative session.

Rosenthal, who represents Metro District 3 (portions of Washington and Clackamas counties and the cities of Beaverton, Durham, King City, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville) wants Metro to fund two new staff positions and related consulting costs to study what a regional vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax and tolling plan would look like. Those topics have traditionally been the realm of the Oregon Department of Transportation and state lawmakers, but Rosenthal believes since Metro represents the part of Oregon with the most congestion and largest megaprojects, his agency should play a larger role. He also doesn’t trust ODOT, members of the Oregon Transportation Commission (that oversees ODOT), or state lawmakers to uphold Metro’s values.

At Thursday’s Metro Council meeting, Rosenthal and other councilors put forward a total of seven budget amendments. Rosenthal proposed two of them: a “Vehicle Mile Tax Scenario Assessment” and a “Regional Values Tolling Prototype“. Each of the proposals would require Metro to fund one full-time staffer and cover costs for consultants and studies from the general fund. The VMTax proposal would fund one FTE and $25,000 for consulting-related costs, the tolling proposal would fund one FTE and $200,000 for “consultant support.”

“Who is asking us to do this? It just feels like there’s a disconnect.”

– Juan Carlos González, Metro councilor

“Logic is asking us to do this, because we’re the only entity that can.”

– Gerritt Rosenthal, Metro councilor

Electeds, experts, and advocates have been pushing for a VMT-based fax for many years. U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced legislation for a VMT pilot program in 2012 as a way for the federal government to fill a deficit in the Highway Trust Fund. ODOT has spent over two decades trying to launch some type of VMT charge, but even with the official launch of their “OreGo” program in 2015, it is still voluntary and has not gained traction (there were less than 900 participants as of last summer). And the Portland Bureau of Transportation included a “road usage charge” as one of the recommendations in their Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility (POEM) plan adopted by City Council in 2021.

From a policy perspective, VMT taxes and tolling are widely considered reasonable ways to pay for transportation infrastructure amid dwindling gas tax receipts and shrinking budgets; but they are often politically toxic because most Americans don’t realize they vastly underpay for their use of streets, parking spaces, and other transportation infrastructure. And most people dislike having to pay for something they’ve received for years at a highly discounted rate due to government subsidies.

So it didn’t take long after Rosenthal’s amendments were posted publicly early last week for a predictable backlash to begin. PDX Real, an outlet that specializes in ginning up rage at progressive policies and whose founder, Angela Todd, spread a false conspiracy about former Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, shared a video Friday that’s been viewed nearly 50,000 times. In the video, Todd made it appear as though the VMT tax was a done deal. “Without our push, Metro will approve a full-time position for a consultant to come up with a plan for the VMT,” she warned. “Together we can cancel the vehicle mileage tracking plans dead in its tracks.”

As expected, outrage ensued in the hundreds of comments below the video. And Glenda Scherer, a small business owner from Gladstone, testified during the public comment period to make sure Rosenthal, Council President Lynn Peterson, and other council members heard that “No means no,” when it comes to tolling. And since the VMTax would require a transponder to track vehicle mileage, Scherer said, “This is government overreach and has a big brother, 1984 feel to it. We don’t want to be tracked.”

Even if passed, neither amendment would actually create a VMT tax or tolling program. Rosenthal says the idea is to just flesh out a proposal—from Metro’s point-of-view—for what each could look like in the region.

“We’re the only region in the state that was proposed for tolling,” Rosenthal explained at Thursday’s meeting, referring to ODOT’s tolling plans which were shelved last month by Governor Tina Kotek after widespread backlash, “And tolling effects all of our freeways, not just the interstates—we have congestion on all of them and we have to deal with this.” Rosenthal also says since the Portland region has the most expensive and complicated infrastructure projects and is the economic driver for the state, he feels “We have special needs and special concerns.”

Based on his comments at the meeting, Rosenthal doesn’t trust ODOT to develop a VMT or tolling system on their own that will match Metro’s values. He’s worried ODOT and state lawmakers will run roughshod over Metro’s adopted goals around transportation, climate, and land-use planning and that ODOT’s “main concern is to generate revenue for ODOT.” To be taken seriously in Salem, Rosenthal believes Metro must be more proactive and build up the research, marketing, and staffing capacity it takes to implement controversial—yet necessary—programs.

“It’s desirable to get ahead of the process,” Rosenthal said to his colleagues on Metro Council. “If we wait [for] the legislature…  the die will be cast. And we will be playing catch up.” From Rosenthal’s perspective, Metro needs to be better-equipped to lead conversations about these policies, rather than react to whatever happens at the State Capitol. He wants Metro’s values to be, “on the table before the debate gets started.” “[These proposals] at least set the stage for future discussions.”

But Rosenthal clearly wants to do more than start a conversation or do a few studies. He’s already considered that Metro has a database of licenses and addresses that would make a tolling proposal, “technologically quite easy to do.” His VMTax idea, however, would be a bit more complicated. “A vehicle mile tax system involves creation of a whole new dataset that does not exist. And that could be both complicated both from a technical standpoint, as well as a political standpoint.”

When it comes to politics, Rosenthal’s idea has already run into a speed bump. District 4 Councilor Juan Carlos González expressed concerns with the proposals not from a policy standpoint, but from one of process. González spoke of the robust public engagement process Metro went through for the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and was clearly uncomfortable making the proposals a priority given all the other projects and policies the public has said they want Metro to focus on. “Who is asking us to do this? It just feels like there’s a disconnect.”

“Logic is asking us to do this, because we’re the only entity that can,” Rosenthal replied. “We’re the regional transportation planning entity in this area, so logic would dictate that this is a regional question that has to be asked by Metro and answered by Metro.”

González spoke diplomatically, but was clearly not supportive of how the amendments were proposed. “What I’m not seeing is the level of partnership required and buy-in from our jurisdictional partners. It kind of feels like putting the cart before the horse.”

But Rosenthal feels the time is now to “set the stage” because once state lawmakers set out their policy ideas and the wheels of legislative action spin into motion, “It would take twice as much—maybe five times as much effort—to change that direction.”

District 2 Councilor Christine Lewis was much more direct. “I just want to be really clear and on the record that I can’t support bringing resources to tolling at this time. Our region does not want tolling and there is no appetite in my district for us to put local resources towards this.” Lewis said going forward with a Metro-led plan not in consultation with ODOT, “Does not feel like the right direction or the mission of our agency.”

For fans of the ideas who’d love to see Metro shape (and possibly even administer) a future VMT tax and tolling plan, don’t pop the champagne just yet. And for foes, rest assured Rosenthal’s proposals are not likely to go anywhere. Sources say Rosenthal’s amendments aren’t likely to have more than one vote (his own).

Even Rosenthal is pessimistic about his proposals. “I’m not going to pretend that they are not controversial… I realize this is probably not going to be accepted.”

Metro’s budget committee will vote on amendments May 2nd. Budget work sessions will be held in June and the final budget will be up for adoption June 13th.

UPDATE, 4/30 at 8:50 am: Councilor Rosenthal withdrew both of amendments this morning. I’ve asked him for a comment and will share if I hear anything back.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
  1. Go to community(ies) that already have a VMT and/or Tolling
  2. Copy their manual(s)
  3. Bring back to Metro and start program
  4. Reevaluate every 6-12 months

No waiting endless years of ad hoc committees.
No doing it the “Portland/Metro” way which inevitably ends in failure.
No need for an overpaid consultant that will likely do the same thing.

There, I won’t even charge Metro.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

That sounds nice and clean, but the practicalities are that different laws and existing systems exist in different jurisdictions, so a direct copy and paste is rarely, if ever, feasible. Reality rejects simplicity, as always.

Brad Jenkins
Brad Jenkins
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Solar for PDX Mayor!

Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

METRO Councilor Rosenthal’s idea is a very intriguing one (especially vs ‘do nothing’ / ‘head in the sand’ for the region) and aligns much tighter to a metropolitan planning organizations’ core mission than some other extraneous things that METRO currently manages.

AND I would strongly recommend to METRO that they also study contracting out these proposed tolling activities to WSDOT due to its comprehensive experience, reported positive customer program feedback, AND the synergy if the IBR rebuilds the Interstate Bridges. (See second report)

https://wstc.wa.gov/studies-surveys/

2nd:
https://wstc.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/2024-0105-2024AnnualTollingReport.pdf

Other:
https://wstc.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/WSTC-01-03-2024-Annual-Report.pdf

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago

It’s a little slow at work today so I thought I’d do a search for some of “Metro’s values” that were mentioned several times and constantly alluded to. I searched and when nothing popped up went through their website and still couldn’t find anything concrete. So not trying to be difficult, but what are their values??
I understand that Mr. Rosenthal is trying to empire build and while that seems to be all that Metro does these days I would have liked to hear where all the money he proposes to raise will go. Will the VMT and/or tolling go into Metro coffers? To Odot? Pbot? Is Metro going to create an Mdot (because why not, Metro itself is an unnecessary layer of government, why not create another unnecessary level as well)? To me the issue this article raises isn’t whether VMT or Tolling should happen, its what to do with an out of control political entity that has the power to tax the population.

Also, the author seems to disparage PDX Real (who in truth has has been reactionary and wrong before) with jumping the gun and attacking before there is any actual intent. Even if passed, neither amendment would actually create a VMT tax or tolling program. Rosenthal says the idea is to just flesh out a proposal—from Metro’s point-of-view—for what each could look like in the region.”
And yet a few sentences later confirms that PDX Real might have reason to be concerned when the article states “But Rosenthal clearly wants to do more than start a conversation or do a few studies. He’s already considered that Metro has a database of licenses and addresses that would make a tolling proposal, “technologically quite easy to do.” “

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago

Thank you, those are excellent values, just not sure if they are Metro values since he’s getting push back already from the other councilors.

MarkM
1 month ago

“As expected, outrage ensued in the hundreds of comments below the video.”

Thank you for calling out the outrage. I’ve come to disregard “truth reporting,” particularly when it’s fueled by ego, clicks, and dopamine, and the motivation is to be divisive and not informative.

“I appreciate the role of public process and getting buy-in, but Portland leaders must find a way to balance that with actually doing big, hard things that wide swaths of our region will not be eager to do and might even fight them on. If you’re afraid to fight for what you believe in, you should get out of politics.”

Well said. I agree.

It’s good to know your dad is doing better.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

“We’re the regional transportation planning entity in this area, so logic would dictate that this is a regional question that has to be asked by Metro and answered by Metro.”

Logic dictates that a VMT program (or tolling on state highways) can only be done at the state or federal level. I see no way that Metro could make this happen, whatever their values (whatever they are).

I don’t love the idea of a VMT tax at all, but I don’t really seen an alternative. So moving on from that is how to implement one in the least intrusive way. I think implementing it at the federal level is the answer, because then you can assess mileage using odometer readings (i.e. without tracking locations), and then divide the money among the states based on statistical measurements of how much people drive.

If OR implements VMT tolling but WA doesn’t, then you need to track where people are driving, and things become much more intrusive (and how would OR capture VMT tolls from WA residents, many of whom drive a lot in Oregon?)

The only constructive role Metro has to play in this would be to lobby the federal government to study and implement such a program. Metro does not have a history of success undertaking new lines of business.

surly ogre
surly ogre
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Perhaps values are similar to goals. If this is the case, then here are METRO’s RTP goals:

Goal 1: Mobility Options
People and businesses can reach the jobs, goods, services and opportunities they need by well-connected, low-carbon travel options that are safe, affordable, convenient, reliable, efficient, accessible, and welcoming.

Goal 2: Safe System
Traffic deaths and serious crashes are eliminated and all people are safe and secure when traveling in the region.

Goal 3: Equitable Transportation
Transportation system disparities experienced by Black, Indigenous and people of color and people with low incomes, are eliminated. The disproportionate barriers people of color, people who speak limited English, people with low incomes, people with disabilities, older adults, youth and other marginalized communities face in meeting their travel needs are removed.

Goal 4: Thriving Economy
Centers, ports, industrial areas, employment areas, and other regional destinations are accessible through a variety of multimodal connections that help people, communities, and businesses thrive and prosper.

Goal 5: Climate Action and Resilience
People, communities and ecosystems are protected, healthier and more resilient and carbon emissions and other pollution are substantially reduced as more people travel by transit, walking and bicycling and people travel shorter distances to get where they need to go.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  surly ogre

I know what they say, but look at what they do. Did Metro’s 2020 transportation measure live up to these goals? Maybe, sort of, kind of, not really, a little?

Regardless, I don’t know how they could implement a VMT tax. It has to be done by the state or the feds.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

“I know what they say, but look at what they do.“
The unfortunate crux of the matter with Metro. Would they run tolling and or VMT like they run the animal abuse at the zoo? And again, where would the taxes/fees they collect go?

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I really dislike how Metro runs its parks and open spaces. They are really quick to exclude all people, and have a blanket ban on dogs in all of their parks. They passed a bond and spent the money for mountain bike trails, but public access never materialized. Preservation of nature and ecosystems is important, but access to nature within our City’s is equally important. There can be a healthy balance that supports critical species but still allows people and their pets some access to experience and connect with nature for the community’s health and to build stewardship for future conservations. I do not trust Metro, based on what they have done..

Douglas K.
Douglas K.
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Maybe don’t worry about where the cars are driven. Just worry about where they are registered and charge VMT by odometer readings. Collect the VMT along with vehicle registration every two years.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Douglas K.

Maybe don’t worry about where the cars are driven. 

I’ve thought about this. I imagine there would be a lawsuit from people who think it’s an overreach for Metro to be taxing their activity in other states, where they are also paying local gas tax.

Also, how do we collect revenue from people outside the state/Metro area who are driving here? Should they get a free pass?

Douglas K.
Douglas K.
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

I’m okay with a “free pass.” If we can raise enough money to keep our roads properly maintained, I don’t really care if folks driving into the area are technically freeloaders in that respect. Same reason I don’t care if people from outside Portland might use Portland parks they haven’t paid for, or how folks outside the Portland Metro area aren’t charged extra admission to visit the Oregon Zoo that regional property taxes support. It might be a bit simpler to keep all our roads maintained if we don’t get overly fixated on who’s paying and who isn’t.

And sure, somebody might file a lawsuit whining about vehicle registration being tied to an odometer reading multiplied by vehicle weight. People can sue over anything, But I doubt it would be a successful suit.

My policy preference is still a City of Portland street fee, with certain restrictions built in (street maintenance and safety improvements only, a required dollar-for-dollar match from the general fund, and most of the revenue spent in the neighborhood where it was collected). But if Metro goes VMT, I’m find with a location-agnostic odometer-based fee.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Douglas K.

People can sue over anything, But I doubt it would be a successful suit.

You’re right of course; many lawsuits fail. But can Metro tax me for driving in Idaho? It’s an interesting question.

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Could you give people options? Here are some off the top of my head: 1) install a tracker and pay an annual rate for miles driven within the state; 2) Pay a per mile fee based on odometer readings checked when you get a DEQ check-up. 3) If you are DEQ exempt and don’t opt-in to the tracker, then you pay for miles used when the car is sold or registered toa new owner.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  maxD

odometer readings checked when you get a DEQ check-up

That would require very active state participation/record collection, which further suggests this should be a state-level operation.

Also, it would almost certainly require a ballot measure (change of Metro charter to allow new activity), and… can you imagine it passing? Would drivers get a refund for the gas tax (which would presumably still be in effect)? Would voters essentially opt-in for a complex new driving tax? Would the increasing number of EV drivers vote to end their free ride (many of whom feel that they’re doing their bit by driving an EV in the first place)?

My sense is that this is a Metro kingdom building activity, and is doomed to fail. Better to spend the money on the elephants.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  maxD

If you’ve done the OreGo program, you know that the little tracking device that mounts to your steering column tracks EVERYTHING – mileage, location, speed, even hard braking. If you cross the river and drive in Washington, you don’t get charged for those miles. It’s quite amazing. You get a bill at the end of every month charging you for your miles driven, and it’s all itemized by date.

Clearly this is the model the state has in mind for charging for VMT, and I’d argue we just need to let them get on with it. They know what they are doing, and I’d add the state needs another layer, which is a license-plate-recognition system for charging out-of-state vehicles for their use of Oregon roads. If you’ve driven in Canada, you’ve seen these systems. If you don’t have a regular account, you call an 800 number or go to a website and pay your fees. There’s no toll tag required. And you need good enforcement to go after the people driving cars with covered or missing license plates.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

tracks EVERYTHING

I profoundly object to Metro, or any other agency, tracking everything I do with my vehicle. I suspect others will too.

And while I know how cameras are used to collect tolls on certain roads, I do not know how they’d work to collect VMT taxes effectively turn every street into a toll road.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

 and I’d argue we just need to let them get on with it. They know what they are doing,

I would suggest the opposite, that the Oregon government does not know what they are doing with transportation nor can the power makers at the state level make up their minds. The same people that champion the interstate expansion and the I5 bridge “replacement” are the same ones you want to control tracking every car in Oregon? These same people who oversaw CoverOregon??

According to OReGO…

The system is functioning effectively with about 700 volunteer drivers and 2,100 vehicles enrolled to date.

Meanwhile, in the real world…

Today in Oregon there are:

About 4.1 million registered vehicles. Of those, about 3.2 million are passenger vehicles.

Nearly 3.1 million licensed drivers.

Do you expect the political and infrastructure system that hasn’t worked for a long time all of a sudden be capable of tracking, collating and charging millions of people the correct fee? More power to you if you do.

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Also, I agree that tolling needs to be done at a state and federal level. Both Metro and ODOT are in desperate need of reform, but I think we would get more bang for our buck if we could pressure the governor and state lawmakers to reform ODOT.

surly ogre
surly ogre
1 month ago

From METRO Regional Transportation Plan adopted Nov 30, 2023:
https://www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/2023/12/21/2023-RTP-Ordinance-No-23-1496-adopted-package-exhibit-A.pdf

7.2.1 Mode share
The RTP increases transit use and multimodal travel, but does not meet the region’s targets to triple transit, walking and bicycling mode share

Section 4.1 mobility:
Per capita VMT in the Greater Portland region has been significantly lower than the national average since 1997 and has mostly been flat or declining. But in order to meet ambitious VMT reduction targets the region will likely need to take new approaches

4.1.3 …the Regional Mobility Policy establishes VMT per capita as a critical performance measure for Mobility, and the State has also established VMT per capita as the key metric used in determining whether the RTP meets its climate targets…

4.5.1 …Though the region’s basic toolkit for fighting climate change has remained consistent since 2010, the State regularly updates the region’s GHG and VMT targets and requires each RTP update to include a revised climate analysis that demontsrates the region’s progress toward these new targets that accounts for state clean vehicle and fuel strategies and that updates the level of implementation of different local and regional strategies to reflect the policies and investments in the RTP. If this analysis finds that the RTP is not sufficient to meet regional targets, JPACT and Metro Council can consider changes to the RTP that further reduce VMT and GHG emissions…

…The targets used in the 2018 RTP only extended through 2040, and under the STS+RTP18 Scenario is very close to Target Scenario levels through the year 2040 However, the results also highlight a growing GHG reduction gap for the years 2040-50. This is expected since the State has set targets out to 2050, whereas the GHG strategies adopted in the 2018 RTP only apply out to 2040. Nonetheless, the way that the results of the two scenarios diverge after 2040, when targets become more ambitious while local/regional GHG reductions flatten out, suggests that the region needs to focus on achieving long-term, cumulative emissions reductions to achieve its targets. This analysis estimates that the region needs to reduce 2050 daily VMT per capita by 1.8 miles below currently forecasted levels to meet its targets. This is equivalent to reducing VMT/GHG emissions by roughly a third more than what current plans are expected to achieve

4.5.2 …But in order to continue to reduce VMT – especially in an era when high housing costs make it challenging for many people to live in neighborhoods with good access to travel options – the region will likely need to take new approaches, such as congestion pricing, or double down on high-impact strategies such as expanding frequent transit, creating affordable housing in regional centers, and managing or pricing parking

7.6.1 Pricing impacts the region’s progress toward climate goals 
More discussion of the role of state-led pricing actions in meeting the region’s climate targets and mobility goals is recommended

The STS contemplates several additional revenue mechanisms, including a road user charge that levies per-mile fees on drivers, carbon taxes, and additional road pricing beyond what is currently included in the 2023 RTP. These changes are not reflected in the RTP because they are not yet adopted in state policies or regulations, but the climate analysis for the RTP is allowed to include them because these state-led pricing actions are identified in Statewide Transportation Strategy and were assumed when the state set the region’s climate targets….

Glossary: Types of Pricing: Cordon / Low Emissions Zone; Parking; Road Usage Charge / VMT Fee / Mileage Based User Fee. Roadway Rate Types: Flat; Variable; Dynamic

Nathan
Nathan
1 month ago

How would VMT even work? Is Guvna Kotek going to sneak into my truck at night and check my odometer?

I wonder how many PDX folks will find a “roommate” in Vancouver for which they’ll sign a “lease” for a bedroom then register their car in WA!?!? Asking for a friend!

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Nathan

Big Brother will look at your phone and trace where it’s been sneaking off to, then charge accordingly, with the assumption that you’ve been driving and not walking or bicycling. And silly you, you’ve already given Big Brother permission to do so, encouraged it even.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Big Brother will look at your phone

Fortunately, they still need a warrant to do that, unless you are entering the country, in which case they pretty much have free reign.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Nathan

Please see my comment below about how OreGo works. It’s already a viable program and I’m guessing the legislature will hit the “on” button next year.

donel courtney
donel courtney
1 month ago

Just lets ask Washington from now on: functional WSDOT, flourishing light rail system (Seattle), population growth, jobs, world class University of Washington instead of universities of mediocrity and colleges of extremism and mediocrity;

AND HALF the road fatality rate of Oregon, last time I checked.

Instead of the disproven “Oregon Way”, lets (re)join Washington.

Forget Idaho, I think we can convince Eastern Oregon; if the choice is Olympia or Salem, they’ll go with functional over virtue signalling.

Champs
Champs
1 month ago

I know that I’ve been critical of VMT here when a gas tax was still pretty much working, but that is falling apart, admittedly.

This does need to change soon, and I’ll eagerly sign up for whatever someone figures out for a solution. Unfortunately now, it doesn’t seem forthcoming and I don’t think Metro, ODOT, or even the federal government can figure this out. Researching a new tax… necessarily implemented with extensive privacy invasions… that is political suicide in our country. Collapsing revenue for roads is a global problem and the solution won’t likely be Made in America.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
1 month ago

New taxes such as the VMT are going to face an uphill battle. In my opinion the once pro tax citizens of Portland Metro have become skeptical of local government programs. Why? Well, the failed rollouts and implementation of multiple new taxes (Preschool, Homeless, PCEF, Metro Housing Bond, Gas tax renewal, etc) have led to growing concerns of the inability of local government to competently use our tax dollars and the negative impacts of having one of the highest tax burdens in the country (people leaving for lower tax locales). There already is organized advocacy against the VMT.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Angus Peters

I agree with you, Angus, about the crappy taxes that have been put forth, but remember those are Multnomah COUNTY taxes that county residents voted for; these taxes have nothing to do with Metro.

VMT needs to happen and is going to happen – next year, I’d wager, unless you plan to drive on dirt roads and swim across the Willamette.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

Well, PCEF is a city of Portland tax and preschool is a Multnomah Tax but Metro is the controlling body for the homeless tax (distributing it to the 3 counties—Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington). They also oversee the Metro housing bond.

The real issue here is that most voters don’t understand or care to know about these taxing nuances . They just see the poorly designed and poorly implemented local taxes we have recently instituted and will be hesitant to vote for more—regardless if it’s a well designed and necessary tax or not. It’s just gonna be a no.

https://www.oregonmetro.gov/public-projects/supportive-housing-services-tax

Marty Ponnech
Marty Ponnech
1 month ago

I view Metro as a poorly run expensive ever expanding unneeded layer of bureaucracy that hurts residents more than it helps. Giving them more power and tax money seems like a nonstarter.

Aesir
Aesir
1 month ago

The only way that I would support a VMT is if it was coupled with DEQ registration. You pay a tax based off of the amount of miles driven between tags as recorded and reported by the DEQ/DMV.

I will never support putting a device given to me by the government to track my movements. Honestly, no one should. Our phones are bad enough, especially with how quickly data gets sold. But the gap between police hands with sketchy tactics and motives and practically unlimited location data for every local citizen is far too small with a VMT tracker based program, and far too likely to be subject to abuses of power.

Beyond that, the rate would be an interesting debate. Due to my line of work, I drive about 15k miles a year. A penny or two a mile is doable, and puts me at around what I pay in gas tax a year. If your intention is to replace the gas tax, and you aim for a similar rate, hoo boy. That’s about $6k a year.

I would propose another type of tax or fee. A mandatory crash fee payable to the city or county the crash occurs in. With it being significantly higher for a pedestrian involved crash, and the only manner to not pay it being to be judged 0% at fault, with no prorating for % you are judged to be at fault otherwise.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Aesir

As you mentioned, your phone already tracks your location, and so will the transponder that tots up the miles you drive on Oregon roads. Soon you’ll pay a few cents for every mile you drive and you’ll think nothing of it.

Will
Will
1 month ago
Reply to  Aesir

Pretty much all cars made since the mid-90s are collecting telematics data and reporting them to manufacturers and insurance companies.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Will

By what means would a 1999 model Honda, for example, report anything to a manufacturer or insurance company? Some data may be collected and stored on-board, but I can think of no mechanism by which that data would leave the vehicle without a physical connection.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Will

Where can I find some info on that? I did a quick search and all I got was info about radios. My mid 90’s car is pretty low tech and I’m curious how it communicates.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

Kudos to Mr. Rosenthal for bringing up the issue of a VMT surcharge, which is clearly needed, sooner rather than later. All of those Tesla bros you see zipping down the highways are paying ZERO$ to maintain them.

The other councilors obviously lack the cajones to tackle the issue, which shows how politically fraught it will be for a VMT charge to carry the day. I’m hoping the legislature will debate VMT funding in the next session and put forward a plan for all of Oregon.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 month ago

OK, Metro. In these inflationary times, go ahead and make life more expensive. Fuel that exodus of smart people, good jobs, and income tax revenues out-of-state. We won’t miss that Congressional seat that we just picked up.

Do I get to stop paying gas taxes? Probably not. Are you going to exempt trucking firms and parcel carriers when they threaten to fund your opponents (or just pay you directly) in the next election cycle? Likely. If I start riding buses and trains, will there be armed security and will cleaning crews vacuum out the meth and fent residue daily? Nope.

You can guarantee that anytime I drive or ride a bike in the Metro region, I can look forward to silky smooth pavement free from potholes and assorted detritus? Less traffic on those days that I must use my car? This money will also improve, maintain, and clear MUPs of garbage and dangerous characters?

If I am being asked to pay more money, spend more time, and to give up more privacy, what am I getting for that money? Please give me concrete assurances, benchmarks, and hard timelines – not a bunch of hippie-trippy platitudes about regional values and other aspirational kumbayas. Oh yeah, will these promised improvements happen within 18-36 months or this a benefit for future generations?

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

COTW

CDD
CDD
1 month ago

Pro tip: old Volvos have a propensity for non-working odometers, and nobody pays $ to yank the dash out to replace a tiny plastic gear. And Humans being Humans, some will find a way to roll back odometers with screwdrivers or a laptop for that shiny new CyberTruck, just to avoid a tax…

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  CDD

Right?!? I had two older 240s, a wagon and a coupe and they both had issues with that tiny plastic gear. Just mind boggling that Volvo of all manufacturers would have such a weak link. Oh, and don’t get me started on the flame trap!
But yes, relying on odometer readings wouldn’t work which just leaves constant tracking of everywhere one goes by a state agency. Hmmmm, it’s like i’ve read a few books with that plot line.

Chico
Chico
1 month ago

How about no new taxes