Monday, November 19, 2012

Rural Topic Guide Series – New Resources for Rural Transportation Planners and Service Providers

At the time of the 2000 U.S. Census, approximately 27% of Americans lived in rural areas.  Ten years later, a Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) brief identified that 38% of rural residents live in areas with no public transportation. These statistics speak to the need for transportation options in rural communities.

2011 Accessible Transportation Coalitions Initiative, Southwest Colorado
Transportation providers and public agencies in rural America continually weigh priorities and make decisions about how to most efficiently use limited to funds to offer more transportation services for a growing older adult population, workers traveling longer distances to reach non-agrarian employment centers and increasingly larger ethnically diverse communities working in farming regions. In an effort to increase the number of rural transportation resources available, Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA), the National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) and the National Center on Senior Transportation (NCST) are collaborating on a rural topic guide series that includes an introductory overview of recent rural population and economic statistics and three topic guides on areas related to analysis or the provision of rural transportation. 

 ESPA’s topic guide is the first to be released and focuses on conducting community assessments in rural areas. Drawing from three models from the eastern and western U.S. (upstate New York, Connecticut and northern California), the guide provides examples of how communities can approach needs assessments, determine gaps in service and involve representatives from the community during the process. In tough economic times, putting rubber on the road and providing essential services is foremost in the minds of small rural operators. Taking the time to conduct assessments may be considered a luxury, especially with limited staff.  The topic guide offers basic options to consider--from conducting short surveys and reaching out to local universities for student assistance with research to local agency participation in statewide plans. Putting financial and human resources into community assessments, while not always a top priority in rural areas, can pay dividends in the future through the development of more efficient service routes and a greater sense of community and passenger involvement and the identification of where to focus public resources in the future.  

The Rural Topic Guide Series Introduction and the ESPA Topic Guide #1 on Community Assessments are available as downloadable PDFs and rich text documents from ESPA’s Resource Library.

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