Transportation Use in Rural Areas
Transportation refers to any vehicle or activity that moves people and goods from one place to
another. In the United States, key modes of transportation for people and goods include buses,
trains, trucks, cars, airplanes, and other forms of motorized vehicles. However, transportation can
also refer to bicycles, boats, and even pedestrian traffic.
Both public and private authorities can manage transportation systems, which can involve maintaining and
updating infrastructure to ensure the system runs smoothly. Transportation infrastructure may
include roads, bridges, bus stations, train tracks, airports, sidewalks, or ferry terminals.
Transportation plays a critical role in the livability of a community – the factors that influence a community's
quality of life. Transportation allows for access to food, healthcare, educational opportunities, and
employment. Additionally, access to transportation increases rural residents' ability to access recreation,
entertainment, and other activities that promote community engagement. Efficient and affordable transportation
important driver in economic growth in rural areas and helps ensure that people can obtain services and participate in
Rural residents are more
reliant on personally-owned, single driver automobiles for transportation than their urban
counterparts. However, many rural residents are unable to rely on this mode of transportation. Personal
vehicles can be expensive to purchase and maintain, and some residents may not have drivers' licenses.
Additionally, rural residents who have physical or mobility limitations may not be able to drive.
Public transportation is a type of
transit available for the public on a scheduled and continual basis. There are several differences in public
transportation use between urban and rural areas. While approximately
20% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, the federal government only allocates about
11% of transportation grant funding to rural
areas. The American Public Transportation Association's Public
Transportation Fact Book states that urban transit agencies provided 98% of passenger trips in 2014,
while rural transit agencies provided 1.5%. The remaining 0.5% of passenger trips were provided by nonprofits.
Resources to Learn More
Guide to Transportation Decisionmaking
Brief guide for individuals or organizations interested in learning more about the transportation planning
process, including the role of federal, state, and tribal agencies. It also identifies ways that groups can
advocate for changes or improvements to transportation systems that can enhance accessibility, safety, and
Organization(s): Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration