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Chokepoints: Pay-per-mile experiment needs more diverse driver pool

Seattle's roadways are becoming more congested as the city's population booms. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

As Washington state’s pay-per-mile pilot is set to begin, the Washington State Transportation Commission worries about its pool of volunteers to choose from.

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Two-thousand drivers will be selected early next year out of the pool of applicants to spend 12 months testing the pay-per-mile method.

The state has approximately 4,300 drivers to choose from now, but Reema Griffith, executive director of the Washington State Transportation Commission, says they need more applicants to fill-in some lacking demographics.

“We want to make sure that the group of 2,000 drivers is from all over the state and is as diversified as possible so that this research project kind of captures all those different angles and possible experiences people are going to have,” she said.

They really need more rural drivers added to the mix, she says. They also need a better selection of vehicles.

“A lot of people think that we maybe only want the fuel-efficient cars, like a hybrid or an electric. We need the old cars and the new cars and everything in-between,” she said. “You don’t need to be a driver that drives a lot. We want all types of drivers in the mix.”

The state would like more skeptics of pay-per-mile in the applicant pool.

“Those are the folks that we also need in, and they really should (apply),” she said. “We need that perspective. We need people to come in and truly experience it.”

And if our comment section is accurate, a lot of people believe this pilot is just for show; that the decision to switch to this method of transportation funding has already been made. Griffith said that’s not the case.

“We may do this pilot and find a fatal flaw or two that we didn’t even think about that makes it a no-go,” she said. “The commission is not really taking a position in saying, ‘this is it, this is what we think we should do.’ I think the best we’ve said is, ‘we think this is worthy of further testing.'”

Current timeline: The state will continue to take applicants through the end of the month and then whittle the field down to 2,000 drivers. They will start the pilot in late January or early February. Participating drivers will get to choose which method they want to calculate their miles and their tax. They can guess how many miles they will drive and pay for that block. They can choose to use their odometer readings. They can plug a GPS into their car, or they can use an app to track their mileage. They will also be able to switch methods during the year.

The data will be collected and crunched, and it will be up to the Legislature to decide what to do next.

Tell Chris about a Chokepoint or ask a traffic question @kirotraffic via Twitter.

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