Improving Public Transportation in Rural Areas and Tribal Communities

Rural areas and tribal communities in the United States vary widely (e.g., size, population density, demographics, current mobility options, economic conditions, proximity to small, medium, and large urban areas, proximity to health facilities, geography, road infrastructure, internet connectivity, weather conditions, and other distinguishing characteristics). About one in five people in the United States live in rural areas where residents tend to be older, poorer, and more likely to have a disability than people living elsewhere. (Rural Transit Fact Book 2020) While the large majority of trips in rural areas and tribal communities are in personal vehicles, public transportation is crucial for many to access work and job training, medical and dental appointments, grocery stores and pharmacies, places of worship, and other locations. Over 80% of counties in the United States have rural or tribal public transportation services. In FY2019 the National Transit Database (NTD) reported that more than 1,250 agencies provide transit service in rural and tribal communities. Most of these agencies provide demand-response services, about one-third provide fixed-route services, and a small percentage provide both fixed-route and demand-response services. Some agencies provide route deviation, demand-responsive taxis, service by transportation network companies, commuter bus service, ferry service, vanpools, and other services. In FY2019, the NTD also reported 67.7 million fixed-route trips, 45.6 million demand-response trips, and 12.2 million trips on other modes, for a total of 126 million annual rural and tribal public transit trips. Rural and tribal transit agencies located in different states and territories have different programs and practices overseeing, funding, and managing their services. Each of these factors, alone and in combination, effect decision-making and outcomes for the transit services. Insufficient financial and staffing resources make it challenging for transit in rural areas and tribal communities to identify and fully meet the travel and accessibility needs of the communities served, to communicate effectively with diverse patrons, to comply with national requirements, to improve equity, and to evaluate and adopt new technologies. Research is needed to help agencies that provide public transportation in disparate rural areas and tribal communities in the United States to improve mobility and accessibility, enhance performance, and adopt appropriate innovations. The research deliverables must be practical, user-friendly resources that support and guide practitioners. The objective of this research is to produce a guidebook on how to initiate new and enhance existing rural and tribal public transportation services that improve mobility and accessibility. The guidebook should promote practices that are responsive to customers and aid transit providers in improving efficiency and effectiveness. The guidebook should also help transit providers better leverage and coordinate resources, comply with federal requirements, and adopt appropriate emerging technologies. The guidebook must address the differences among rural areas and tribal communities with regard to their distinguishing characteristics (e.g., size, population density, demographics, current mobility options, economic conditions, proximity to small, medium, and large urban areas, proximity to health facilities, geography, road infrastructure, internet connectivity, funding, and weather conditions) and how these characteristics effect public transportation services. The research should include a survey to identify best practices and innovation for improving mobility and accessibility in disparate rural and tribal settings. The survey should produce a synthesis that will frame the balance of the research. The research should then explore and present best practices and innovations in detail. The final deliverable should be a practical and actionable guidebook that will serve the diverse rural and tribal agencies in the United States that provide public transportation, as well as the state departments of transportation (DOTs) that oversee and administer these services.

Language

  • English

Project

  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $600000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-147

  • 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:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20210601
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01739637
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-147
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: May 18 2020 3:06PM