In rural places, where population density is often as low as it gets, fixed-route public transit generally has few advocates. But there is unmet demand for transit in rural America, suggests new research presented in the Journal of Rural Studies. In rural areas where populations are growing and densifying, transit can help reduce segregation and ease the economic plight of the most vulnerable.
Rural roads are among America’s most deadly
About 75% of all roads in the United States, around 3 million miles, are in rural areas and are vital for transporting goods and connecting communities. The likelihood that a car crash will result in death is higher in rural America, even with less than one fifth of the population living in these areas. 85,002 people were killed on rural roads between 2016 and 2020, and according to a new study published by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the risk of dying in a car crash was 62% higher on a rural road compared to an urban road for trips of the same length.
In the midst of nationwide transit service cuts, more than one million rural households do not have a car
Many transit agencies have been forced to drastically scale back services due to rapidly declining revenues, and rural providers are no exception. Many were already operating on incredibly tight budgets, serving large geographic areas with a small staff of part-time drivers. While it is easy to see how pandemic-related service cuts will impact people in urban areas who rely on transit, the impacts will likely be just as devastating for many rural communities, especially the pockets of rural America with disproportionately low car ownership.
Road fatalities are disproportionate across both racial/ethnic and rural/urban lines
Recent research examines equity in road fatalities and finds significant disparities across racial/ethnic, income, and geographic lines. The researchers geocoded and analyzed crashes both in terms of where the crash occurred and the home zip code of the driver, a departure from previous roadway safety research that has focused exclusively on the crash locations. The findings of the research have significant equity implications.
Montana and North Dakota show need for transit service in rural areas
Transit services provide critical connectivity within and between communities of all sizes—urban and rural. Two transit agencies in rural Montana and North Dakota offer best practice examples of how to provide public transit in rural areas and prove there is demand for service in these locales.
Aligning Strategies to Maximize Impact: Case Studies on Transportation and Economic Development (National Association of Development Organizations, 2012)
Ten case studies from 11 states document how the fields of transportation and economic development can complement each other and create an environment for increased collaboration and aligning of resources.
Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities (Partnership for Sustainable Communities and USDA, 2012)
This guide to HUD, DOT, EPA, and USDA programs highlights federal resources rural communities can use to promote economic competitiveness, protect healthy environments, and enhance quality of life. It provides key information on funding and technical assistance opportunities available from the four agencies, as well as examples of how rural communities across the country have put these programs into action.
Transportation, Mobility, and Older Adults in Rural Michigan (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute Behavioral Sciences Group, 2012)
This report explores issues related to transportation and mobility in rural areas generally, and in rural areas of Michigan specifically. The information from this report is intended to assist Michigan in meeting the transportation needs of its rural older adult population.
Investing in transit improves quality of life in rural areas
Transit is not just an urban phenomenon, and transit service is critical for many rural residents. Addressing rural transit needs has emerged as a major challenge for transit agencies, municipalities, and human services agencies as greater numbers of people in rural areas seek transit services for their daily trips.
Report documents the continued rise of walking and biking
A new benchmarking report from the Alliance for Biking and Walking shows a 57 percent growth in bike commuting in the United States and a 29 percent rise in pedestrian fatalities in large cities between …