Four trends will advance the road-tolling agenda in 2010-11

Four trends, in order of importance, will advance the US (and world) road tolling agenda in 2010-11:

Funding pressure (e.g., continued Highway Trust Fund bankruptcy) will remain and grow because more and more vehicle miles traveled (VMT) are in higher efficiency vehicles. (This is a US focus due to excessive fuel tax under charging and related political phobia).

VMT growth is recovering with the economic recovery, hence the congestion pressure will return: (world focus). Add to this that rising incomes will drive demand for more road capacity (point added by Gabriel Roth).

The BP oil-spill disaster will stoke anti-big-car, anti-sprawl, anti-internal-combustion opinion (US and world focus - the disaster will be seen internationally). This will put pressure on electric vehicle delivery and legislators will seek ways to charge user fees to these vehicles as their numbers stop being insignificant.  There is already talk of "starting tolling with electric cars", as it is thought that people who purchase electric vehicles would tend to be more likely to understand how tolling would work and why it is important and fair, as well as understand how privacy can be protected.

The rise of an opt-in metering philosophy to market evolution (Skymeter is a player in bringing this approach to popularity) - this will allow US thinking to catch up to EU thinking, albeit on a parallel path.  EU will switch to an opt-in path (for cars) in 2011, esp as the 2012 deadline for the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) will pass unmet.  More critically, this will allow the EU to re-focus on cars (they only do trucks so far and the hiccup in the expected Dutch system for all vehicles will permit rethinking toward opt-in (some in Dutch Ministry of Transportation (Rijkswaterstaat) are already saying this, off-record).

I offer a 5th point – more hunch than prediction: Obama will soften toward VMT charging as the oil spill will set back his current off-shore drilling position. His VMT charging position will remain "no", for the next year, running up to the election he will say "we have to look at all options".  After the next election (if he wins re-election) VMT charging will become more than just ITS academics or a subject of time-biding AASHTO studies.