Public Transit Isn't Just for Big Cities

Funding cuts and uneven investment in rural areas have left millions of Americans trapped without adequate transportation.

March 4, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Rural Bus Stop

Aigars Reinholds / Shutterstock

Dwindling funding for transit systems, particularly those in less dense, non-urban areas, is having a major impact on rural Americans who don't own cars or are unable to drive.

While conversation around public transit tends to focus on big cities, many people in small towns and rural communities also depend on it. "For many Americans, public transit is the only option to get to work, school, the grocery store, or doctor’s appointments. But nearly half of us have no access to public transit. And those that do are now confronting limited routes, slashed service times, and limited disability accommodations," writes Kayla Soren. For people with disabilities, the burden of reduced transit is even greater. "Over 80 percent of young adults with disabilities are prevented from doing daily activities due to a lack of transportation," and overstretched transit agencies often don't have the resources to accommodate riders with disabilities.

With millions of Americans lacking access to public transit and many more forced to depend on inadequate transportation, Soren argues that Congress should step in with emergency relief and increased federal funding to public transit agencies, including an adjustment to "the '80-20' split that’s plagued federal transit funding since the Reagan era — with 80 percent going to highways and less than 20 percent to public transit." Although commonly justified by the belief that only residents of big cities use transit, "this is upside-down logic. The hearings reveal that when people don’t use transit, it’s because it is nonexistent, unreliable, or inaccessible."

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 in Institute for Policy Studies

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