Any conversation about the San Francisco Bay Area wouldn’t be complete without someone mentioning the traffic: how bad it is, how fast people drive, how many miles commuters travel. And soon, taxes could be tied up in the whole mess. The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission are floating a plan to tax Bay Area residents according to the number of miles they drive. The plan would require all vehicles registered in the area to be outfitted with a GPS-like device to track the distances traveled.
At issue is a loss of tax revenue at the pump. Vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient… so, the less fuel it takes to run your car or truck, the less you spend on gas. The less you spend on gas, the less gas tax you pay. Some say the mileage tax could raise as much as $15-million a day. That amount of money is tempting even if you’re not trying to solve budget problems the size of California’s.
But we think the bigger issue is a loss of privacy. If police are banned from sticking a tracking device on your vehicle without a warrant, why should city government be any different? And then there are questions of fairness: Those who can afford to live where they work – primarily in San Francisco – will pay less than those who had to move out into the suburbs to find affordable housing but still commute into the city. And who will have access to the information gleaned from your GPS? Could it be held against you at trial? What’s next: a fingerprint required to turn over the ignition?
The proposed mileage tax is in the research phase right now, and the governing bodies are not expected to act quickly to implement it even if it does go into effect. But don’t be surprised if that conversation about the Bay Area soon includes another complaint… about Big Brother in the back seat.