For more than a decade, transportation professionals and policymakers in Texas have used the Transportation Revenue Estimator and Needs Determination System (TRENDS) to project funding levels and simplify the arduous task of highway planning in a fast-growing state.
The easy-to-use, interactive model has been applied extensively to forecast transportation revenue changes related to changing state laws and policies, providing critical information to the Texas Legislature and other officials.
With a new, updated version of the TRENDS model — developed by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and funded by the Texas Department of Transportation — users can now estimate the impact of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) on those funding levels. Transportation funding in Texas has historically relied heavily upon the state motor fuels tax. The expanding number of vehicles that generate fewer tax dollars (such as electric and hybrid gas/electric vehicles) could have a significant impact on future funding availability.
Recognizing that changing fiscal landscape, TTI researchers modernized the TRENDS model with the following attributes to allow for these changes in the evolving mix of cars and trucks on today’s road:
- The tool includes an option to impose an annual registration fee on three different types of AFVs (electric, hybrid, other alternative fuel). Each fee can be set to an amount of the user’s choosing between $0-$500.
- Each type of vehicle has a coordinating growth rate option, where the user can select how quickly the type of vehicle will grow within the vehicle market, as well as how this impacts revenue from the registration fee.
- The user can select a year in which the fee goes into effect.
- The tool allows the user to see — given the options selected in the categories discussed above — how these alternative vehicle fees will impact transportation revenues through the year 2050.
According to TTI Associate Research Scientist Brianne Glover, the projected growth in the number of AFVs (currently more than 300,000 in Texas) could be substantial in the coming years. With a 15 percent annual growth rate, the number of those vehicles could expand to anywhere from 11 million to 23 million over the next 30 years.
“As alternative fuel vehicles become more prominent in our everyday lives, less motor fuel tax revenue is available for the state to use to maintain our roadways,” Glover says. “Knowing what the growth of AFVs might look like will help us prepare for the future funding situation.”