CDOT’s First Road Usage Charge Pilot Program Research Study Completed

Dec. 12, 2017 - Report available on pilot’s exploration of potential funding alternative

DENVER—The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced the successful completion of Colorado's Road Usage Charge Pilot Program (RUCPP) Research Study, which researched how a pay-by-mile system compares to the current gas tax, as well as its feasibility in Colorado. The RUCPP Pilot Program represented Colorado's first pilot test of the road-usage-charge concept.

CDOT is facing a nearly $1 billion annual funding shortfall over the next 10 years and is exploring transportation funding alternatives, as the gas tax is unable to meet the infrastructure investment needs of the transportation system due to decreased purchasing power, increased population, and more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles. A healthy, multimodal, transportation system is critical in maintaining the quality of life many Coloradans have grown to expect. This pilot was one of the first steps in an extensive process of evaluating the concept alongside other funding alternatives.

"We need to explore possible funding opportunities, such as a road usage charge (RUC), to ensure Coloradans have the mobility they need to live, work and play," said Mike Lewis, CDOT executive director. "The findings from this pilot gave CDOT data about participant preferences, reporting accuracy and potential revenue. We'll continue to explore RUC as a potential funding alternative that will help us ensure we continue to have a healthy transportation system that works for our state's economy and way of life."

The four-month pilot included 150 participants from 27 different counties across Colorado, from cities to towns, mountains to plains, to individuals with less fuel-efficient cars and trucks, to hybrid and electric vehicles. The pilot allowed drivers of different vehicle types to choose how they reported their mileage and compare what they would pay under a road usage charge versus the current gas tax.

The table below shows the difference in monthly gas tax paid versus road usage charge paid for vehicles with various average fuel economies, assuming 1,000 miles driven per month and 1.2 cents per mile, which was established for the purpose of this pilot:

Type of Vehicle

Monthly Gas Tax Paid

Monthly Road Usage Charge Paid*


5-15 miles per gallon (10 miles per gallon median)
$22 $12 RUC will save $10 for these drivers.
15-25 miles per gallon (20 miles per gallon median)
$11 $12 RUC will cost $1 for these drivers.
25-45 miles per gallon (35 miles per gallon median)
$6.29 $12 RUC will cost $3.71 for these drivers.
more than 45 equivalent miles per gallon (gas not needed)
$0 $12 RUC will cost $12 for these drivers.

*Paid amounts are calculated assuming 1,000 miles traveled per month at a rate of 1.2 center per mile. The 1.2 cents was established for testing purposes for this pilot.

CDOT developed a number of goals to gauge the success of the pilot including to:

  • Demonstrate an operational RUC;
  • Identify and evaluate policy issues such as how drivers crossing state lines (out-of-state drivers) would be handled, and drivers using private roads;
  • Test the feasibility of various mileage-reporting choices, which included manual reporting, GPS and non-GPS-enabled mileage-reporting devices; and
  • To solicit feedback and ideas about participant experiences.

See the full report, which includes highlights such as:

  • Participants reported high satisfaction with all aspects of the pilot program, and 91 percent of participants would participate in a future pilot.
  • Seventy percent of participants chose the GPS-enabled mileage-reporting option. Participants using mileage-reporting devices were much more satisfied with their choice (93 percent of participants were satisfied) than those who had opted for odometer reading (55 percent were satisfied).
  • Eighty-eight percent of participants felt their personal information was secure during the pilot.
  • While money was not exchanged in this pilot, 73 percent of participants felt the amount they would have owed in road usage charges was the same or less than expected.
  • Eighty-one percent of participants agreed that a road usage charge is a fair funding method.
  • Surveys identified issues on how a road usage charge would address out-of-state drivers and miles driven on private roads.

"CDOT is proud to have completed the pilot, where we worked with a diverse group of people from our Colorado communities," said Tim Kirby, manager of CDOT's metropolitan planning organizations regional planning section.

"This was the first step in exploring a potential sustainable funding alternative, and gave us a lot of insightful data and meaningful feedback from pilot participants. We are looking forward to potentially expanding pilot activities as we convene a diverse group of stakeholders to continue to explore the viability of RUC in order to keep goods and people moving across the state safely and efficiently."

CDOT was recently awarded $500,000 from the second round of federal Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act grants for a second pilot, to begin in late 2018. CDOT plans to partner with the Colorado Farm Bureau and other state agencies to research and address issues that were identified in the initial study.

Also, CDOT is a member of RUC West, a consortium of 14 Western states, and is participating in the RUC West Regional Pilot to address how to handle drivers crossing state lines or between two separate RUC systems.

As part of the pilot program, CDOT made an online calculator available to the general public, involved in the pilot or not, to compare the state gas tax with the Colorado RUCPP rate, and assess what a potential RUC system would mean for them.

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