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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 is an important driver in economic growth in rural areas and helps ensure that people can obtain services and participate in public life.

While rural residents are more reliant on personally-owned, single driver automobiles for transportation than their urban counterparts, 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.

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

A Guide to Transportation Decision-Making
Document
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 usability.
Organization(s): Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration
Date: 4/2015