Are American Rural Transport Systems just passing clouds?
The government releases funds every year to develop America’s public transit but gets biasedly expedited towards metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. These expenditures are crucial, but public transit occurs outside of big metropolitan areas, and rural mobility challenges are just as significant.
Among these huge transportation ventures, rural transportation is often neglected to lead to unreliable public transit in these non-urban regions. Due to years of public transit insufficiency, the rural inhabitants have adapted themselves to travel through their owned vehicles indirectly consuming a major share of their family income.
Illustrated from data of National Transit Database 2019
Improvised rural transportation is not just significant for the rural to rural or rural to urban but also the infrastructure influences urban to urban movement. Any route connecting two urban areas has a combination of a suburban and rural network. Hence, in the United States, rural transit networks are typically made up of a combination of limited fixed-route bus service along highways or major roads and demand-response transportation (commonly referred to as “dial-a-ride”). Because most rural transportation agencies serve huge, low-density areas, fixed-route buses operate infrequently, and demand-responsive trips must often be scheduled days, if not weeks, ahead of time.
Hence, It is no wonder that Rural America prefers to drive on their own for their multi-purpose trips, there is no choice. It’s one of the key reasons why rural households spend a far higher percentage of their budgets on transportation than urban households in a country where transportation is the second greatest household expense after housing.
Source: ACS 2019
Furthermore, millions of individuals have no choice — they are unable to drive due to age, disability, or income, and frequently find themselves stuck, unable to get to medical appointments, grocery stores, community events, or jobs.
Lack of state financing, along with decades of little federal investment, has made it difficult to remedy the situation, leaving small areas with fewer and fewer transportation options. Simultaneously, we know that rural communities demand better public transit and that it is a wise use of public funds.
Many people believe that the only Americans who use public transportation to get to jobs and services live in big cities. In fact, more than one million households in primarily rural areas lack access to a vehicle. Rural Americans without automobiles face particular challenges, and rather than assuming they can or will drive everywhere, they deserve a personalized approach to their transportation needs.
What is the Challenge?
Before the big picture, let us reconsider a few details underlying these facts.
- If you believe that only a small percentage of Americans use rural roads, you are mistaken. Our nation’s transportation system is a multi-sectoral system, with each section, rural and urban, critical to the overall system but with its own set of difficulties and requirements. Rural Public Transit serves less densely populated but sparsely distributed communities. According to the Federal Highway Administration, Rural America accounts for more than 80% of the country’s coverage.
- According to the American Community Survey, almost 64 million Americans, or nearly one-fifth of the country’s population, reside in rural regions and 96% of them own vehicle(s) to meet daily needs. But it has been challenging for the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income people, and others since the necessity for rural public transportation has long been associated with providing mobility and access to important employment, products, and services.
- Rural roads have a death rate that is more than double that of metropolitan routes. To cover the inequity, alternative transportation such as Demand–response public transportation (dial-a-ride), traditional and deviated fixed route services (e.g., shuttles, circulators), vanpool, and reimbursement programs are put into the basket of rural public transportation.
- Rural populations take fewer journeys per day on average, but their average travel distance is longer. Rural populations travel more kilometers per year than their urban counterparts due to longer trip lengths and higher reliance on automobiles. American Rural roads cover more than 3 million kilometers and account for 40% of all vehicle miles traveled.
Rural public transportation services, in general, contribute to rural residents’ well-being by providing access to jobs, schools, places of worship, and social and recreational activities. Travel duration and distances, regularity of service, cost, and a lack of funds to solve these issues all limit access to public transit in remote areas.
Many federal policymakers wrongly believe that living in a rural region entails that everyone must drive great distances for every trip — and that the cost, time, annoyance, and pollution associated with driving long distances are unavoidable aspects of rural life.
Rural roads are used by most of us at least occasionally, if not on a daily basis.
As a result, Public Transport usage in Rural is low and unlike urban transport systems, rural residents don’t have an opportunity to utilize other transportation or walk to cover their daily needs hence incredibly increasing their own vehicle dependency.
- Auto — Includes car, SUV, van, pickup truck, and rental car (This does not include ride-sharing modes be Uber, Lyft, etc.,)
- Public Transport — Includes public or commuter bus, paratransit/dial-a-ride, School bus, intercity bus, intercity rail, commuter rail, and rail transit, but not a taxi, or private or charter bus
- Walk/ Cycle — Includes walking, motorcycle, private or charter bus, airplane, boat, RV, and others
- Ridesharing mode — Taxi/Uber/Lyft
What does rural transport have?
Public transportation includes all passenger transportation options available other than driving alone. This includes rural transit, demand responsive transit for the elderly and disabled, passenger rail, intercity bus, ferries, commercial scheduled air service, and car and vanpooling.
Passenger transportation in rural areas is provided by a variety of private sector, not-for-profit organizations, and various public agencies as well.
In the past, many rural communities were served by bus. Restructuring of the intercity bus transportation industry, combined with reductions in airfares and declining populations in many rural areas, has led to reductions in rural bus service. Intercity bus services are not subsidized and are not required to keep lines open if they are unprofitable.
Then, is there an affordable and reliable rural transportation alternative? Yes! On-Demand micro-transit with trust from your local transit provider and comfort of home.
Rural Transportation requires a customized strategy for optimized functioning. The demand here is lesser in comparison to urban but vastly located while the supply has a small staff of part-time drivers, many of these providers were already stretched thin, serving multiple counties over large geographic areas. With the right technology and strategy, we can optimally distribute the resources.
For example, Let’s Ride is a statewide on-demand rural transportation portal in Georgia, dedicatedly developed by Qryde to connect rural transit riders with their local transit providers. The app allows riders to pre-book journeys on their local area’s transit service, enabling them better access to jobs, healthcare, and other services.
- The networking at the state level ensures smooth multi-sectoral trips covering vast distances with ease.
- Local transit providers run the service, and you may be sharing the ride with other customers hence reducing your travel budget. No more pressure to buy or lease a car.
- Customized vehicles for the disabled and elderly accompanied by trained drivers ensure a safer trip minimizing transport accidents.
Let’s Ride is a free service that links users to their local transit provider rather than providing direct service.
Please check with your local transit provider for trip cost information via: www.letsridega.com
- Building better public transit in rural America. (2020). Retrieved from Ride with via website: https://ridewithvia.com/resources/articles/building-better-public-transit-in-rural-america/
- U.S. Department of Transportation. (2021). Rural Public Transportation Systems. Retrieved from https://www.transportation.gov/mission/health/Rural-Public-Transportation-Systems#:~:text=Rural public transportation systems serve,%2C vanpool%2C or reimbursement programs
- Western transportation institute. (2020). What Is Rural Transportation? Why Rural Matters. Retrieved from https://westerntransportationinstitute.org/about/what-is-rural-transportation/
- Laska, A., & Bellis, R. (2021). Rural Communities Need Better Transportation Policy. Third Way. Retrieved from https://www.thirdway.org/memo/rural-communities-need-better-transportation-policy
- Bellis, R. (2020). More than one million households without a car in rural America need better transit. Smart Growth America. Retrieved from https://smartgrowthamerica.org/more-than-one-million-households-without-a-car-in-rural-america-need-better-transit/
- Qryde. (2021). Let’s Ride. Retrieved from https://letsride-gdot.hub.arcgis.com/