How Rural Transit Systems Are Doing More With Less

With limited resources and dispersed service areas, rural transit systems are turning to technology to provide on-demand service and improve transit options for residents.

April 8, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Rural bus stop

Quinn Martin / Rural bus stop

"Good public transportation in any city is a lifeline for accessing jobs, healthcare and education." But "While some assume everyone in rural America owns a car, most counties with high rates of zero-car households are actually rural ones," write Scott James Matheson and Sam Couvillon. "[M]ost rural areas have been cut off from access to effective public transportation for years. But that is starting to change thanks to new transit innovations that rural communities are putting in place, a welcome trend that federal infrastructure dollars could accelerate."

Matheson and Couvillon, both mayors of small Georgia towns, say "Public transit has always looked different in communities like ours," with needs that fixed-route bus systems and trains can't meet as efficiently as in big cities.

But there is another, game-changing approach, write Matheson and Couvillon. "We’re using technology to run our own on-demand transit services that are efficient and are drastically expanding access to affordable, convenient and reliable transit. We launched these innovative transit services in a matter of months — not years or decades — by focusing on outcomes for who we want to serve and embracing new ways that get us there."

Valdosta, where Matheson is mayor, launched an on-demand public transit service that has received over 14,000 ride requests per month. Gainesville, the city where Couvillon serves as mayor, "launched WeGo to replace three underperforming fixed routes and immediately saw dramatic improvements," quickly expanding the program to the entire county.

We recently noted a similar argument for the potential of small and rural transit systems to lead the way in electrification. As the authors of this article note, there's an advantage to not having to wait decades for massive, resource-intensive projects. Using technology and on-demand services, "We can deliver transformative, game-changing transit service in a way that is efficient, flexible and adaptable to a community’s mobility needs."

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 in Smart Cities Dive

A image of the World's Columbian Exposition overlayed with a picture of Keanu Reeves in the rain from the movie Point Break.

Keanu Reeves Set to Play Daniel Burnham in ‘The Devil in the White City’

Planning is going to get a new level of star power as a limited series adaptation of The Devil in the White City gets ready for television screens in 2024.

August 8, 2022 - Reel Chicago

Kids

Opinion: Aging Population, Declining Fertility Requires Long-Term Investments

Faced with the dire consequences of a one-two punch of aging populations and declining birthrates, one writer has suggestions for how policy can help ensure a better future.

August 9, 2022 - Financial Times

View from middle of street in downtown Telluride, Colorado with mountains in background

Marrying Urban Identity and Economic Prosperity

A new book posits that truly successful communities have a strong economic base and a firmly rooted sense of place.

August 5, 2022 - Governing

Sound Transit Light Rail Extensions

Checking in on the Progress of the Sound Transit 3 Plan

The Seattle area's $53.8 billion transit expansion plan is moving along in fits and starts.

August 15 - The Seattle Times

Denver Union STation TOD

Colorado Could Reject Highway Expansion in Favor of Climate-Friendly Planning

A proposed transportation strategy could shift the state’s focus away from driving and toward incentivizing public transit use, walking, and biking.

August 15 - Colorado Public Radio

Parking area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Parking Fees Approved for Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Visitors to the nation’s busiest national park will soon have to pay to park under a plan announced today by park officials.

August 15 - ABC 13 News

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.