Access to Jobs, Economic Opportunities, and Education in Rural Areas

Rural and remote areas often have limited transportation connections, contributing to isolation. Intercity bus service to small cities is sparse, and rural road conditions are often less than ideal. Commercial and social services suffer from diseconomies of scale, leading to higher costs or a decline in service diversity. Rural and remote communities are particularly disadvantaged. Even moderate-sized cities with stable populations find retaining or attracting workers a challenge as trained workers, especially in technical disciplines, gravitate to large urban areas in search of broader and more lucrative opportunities and improved quality of life. Lack of access and connectivity places rural and remote areas at a disadvantage. Compounding this problem are economic trends impacting rural and remote areas. More and more, employment is concentrated into a limited number of expanding urban areas, with manufacturing employment in rural areas continuing to decline. Relatively speaking, manufacturing is more important to the rural economy than it is to the urban economy; and the decreasing number of manufacturing jobs is increasing the demand for access to alternative employment opportunities in larger geographic areas (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service). Even when workers from rural and remote areas equip themselves with the skills required by the modern economy, they are often forced to travel or move to locations where jobs are concentrated and available. In some cases, these pressures have created a situation where once vibrant small towns are losing population and suffering. In other cases, corporations are moving to rural areas to decrease costs, attracting professionals who are looking for an expanded range of services to support a different lifestyle. Affected agencies—economic development, transportation, and land use—are seeking to find solutions to address these trends or at least provide rural and remote areas with the tools to help them participate more fully in the benefits of the global economy. Considering access and connectivity during project identification and prioritization can help support positive economic development outcomes and improved quality of life. Transportation agencies, in coordination with organizations charged with economic development, those providing social services, and private sector entities, need solutions to rural livability concerns. Transportation agencies are often aware of the isolation and access challenges their communities face but may not have adequate funding, needed data, analytical methods, or processes in place to respond when making investment decisions. As a result, issues related to equity when it comes to investment in infrastructure improvements for rural versus urban areas need to be addressed. Improved access and connectivity may be part of a transportation agency’s mission and vision, but rarely are investment priorities aligned with the objective of improving access to and mobility within rural and remote areas. A strategic approach for including rural area access and mobility issues in the statewide transportation planning process would be useful in making more effective and equitable investment decisions. The objective of this research is to prepare guidelines for state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other public and private organizations involved in rural development and the provision of transportation services. These guidelines should address a range of components, building on a variety of examples of how agencies currently implement rural and remote access and connectivity programs: (1) Reviewing existing methods to measure access and connectivity, the data available, the data required, and what is missing; (2) Achieving equity in urban versus rural investment strategies; (3) Measuring economic effects and return on investment as a function of right-sizing investment strategies; (4) Developing a systematic approach to evaluating how rural communities are impacted by current investment in transportation, including difficulty in attracting and retaining economic activity and accessing employment, education, health services, housing, and other critical social and economic services as a measure of and contribution to quality of life; (5) Designing, maintaining, and implementing innovative funding, financing, and investment strategies; and (6) Considering and evaluating institutional relationships, applications of new and emerging technologies, and partnerships needed to respond effectively.

Language

  • English

Project

  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $250000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-131

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Goldstein, Lawrence

  • Start Date: 20200706
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01707716
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-131
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jun 3 2019 3:17PM