James Aloisi talks up VMT, parking fees
Thursday, February 25, 2010
By Gabrielle Gurley
Most of the revenue-generating remedies for the state’s ailing transportation networks are “feasible,” “viable” and “doable.” Problem is they aren’t getting done. Which brings us to former Transportation Secretary James Aloisi.
In one of his first major public appearances since he left his post last November, Aloisi pitched two not-so-new ideas — taxes on mileage and parking — to help fund mass transit in metro Boston and across the state at a Wednesday talk billed as “innovative solutions” and sponsored by the Conservation Law Foundation.
The first proposal, a perennial favorite, involved levying fees on drivers
based on the miles they travel — a.k.a, “vehicle
miles traveled,” or VMT. Aloisi proposed levying a 5-cent-per-mile surcharge
on interstate highways, a tax that would generate $550 million each year. Add in
the state highway system, and revenues double to more than $1 billion, he
Anticipating the howls of protest from western
Aloisi said that car-dependent commuters in rural areas would pay a smaller base
rate. Drivers in densely populated areas with better transit options would see
higher charges. Concluding that VMT is eminently “fair” since motorists pay
based on usage and officials could vary the rates charged (more at peak times,
less at off peak hours), he pronounced the surcharge “feasible.”
A RAND report released
earlier this month backs up the former secretary on VMT. Fuel taxes haven’t
kept pace with inflation or advances in fuel economy, so state and federal
transportation revenues have bottomed out.
Aloisi's second proposal took on parking. He suggested a
carbon impact fee levied on the owners of commercial parking areas of 50 or more spaces (such as
your favorite big box store) in the MBTA service area and an additional $2
assessment on individual parking at Logan Airport.
Aloisi acknowledged that he was preaching to the choir at the CLF event, noting that the room was full
transit advocates and policymakers who have long been sold on the need to raise
revenues for public transportation. But not surprisingly, the former secretary came up short
when asked how to go about building a broad-based political coalition to push
VMT or any other revenue generator. Instead, he underlined that it was “way past
time” for action. “There’s nothing easier than delay,” he said. “It’s so
And so it goes.