Miles Traveled proposal sparks privacy worries

Only a handful of Las Vegas residents showed up Thursday to learn more about the Nevada Department of Transportation's Vehicle Miles Traveled study and the majority left with the same opinion.

They don't want it.

"I think it's an intrusion of our privacy," said Mike Hazard. "Why don't they just raise (fuel) taxes if they need to increase funds?"

The infiltration of more fuel-efficient vehicles has taken a chunk out of fuel tax revenues, prompting the state transportation division to look toward alternate programs to raise funds to maintain roads and build new ones.

The department is spending $100,000 to study charging motorists a fee for each mile traveled. The fee could vary depending on the time of day a trip is taken and whether the motorist uses a congested roadway.

The idea is to create equality between traditional vehicles and hybrids, which use less fuel and therefore contribute less to fuel tax revenues.

The program would require motorists to install GPS-like devices in their vehicle to track their mileage and whereabouts.

"That's an invasion," Clifford Ricci said. "This is America. We don't have to justify where we go or how long we stay to anybody."

Marlene Drozd, who studied the transportation department's posters outlining the program, also expressed great concern over the government's detailed involvement in motorists' driving patterns.

"Privacy is a very big concern," Drozd said. "The more information the government has, the less chance it's going to remain private. They say there will be limited acquisition of personal information. That's not going to happen."

While the privacy issue is at the forefront of opponents' arguments, Drozd had another concern.

She believes the state government needs to be more frugal with the money it already receives. She pointed to the increased government service tax charged by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Drozd thought that extra money went toward repairing and maintaining roads. The money goes into the state's general fund, she explained.

"The government needs to learn to live within its means," she said. "The solution to everything is to raise taxes.

"That (government services taxes) could be going to the roads and they wouldn't be having this problem. It's an easy fix without invading our privacy."

The Department of Transportation is in the early stages of studying about the Vehicle Miles Traveled program. Administrators say they are years from trying a pilot program and are nowhere near implementing such a fee.