May 25, 2012

Report: Improving transit boosts rural communities

Reconnecting America and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) released a report that examines how smaller communities and rural regions are using transit and other mobility investments to revitalize their economies and connect residents to local and regional opportunities.

"Putting Transit to Work in Main Street America," which was funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, offers nine case studies looking into how improved bus networks, downtown circulators, intermodal transit centers and intercity transit improvements have helped communities address the unique mobility challenges that stem from large geographic distances, an aging population, and limited financial resources.

 “As the former Mayor of a small city who saw the positive impact of a multimodal transit facility, this report will be valuable to all who want to see examples of thriving rural communities,” said Reconnecting America President/CEO John Robert Smith.

Researchers found smaller communities are making a wide variety of transit investments, and these investments have had a positive impact on both the economy and the quality of life of residents.

As shown in the case studies, improved transit service can be integrated into a community without adversely affecting the small-town or rural character. Investments don't need to be overwhelming. Researchers found incremental or small-scale improvements in transit service can yield significant benefits. Success, however, requires coordination among multiple partners on the local and state level, with the federal government also an essential partner.

“The case studies included in the report prove that there are different solutions out there for every need – and the size or geography of where you live should not be a hindrance to achieving qualify of life for your citizens,” said G. Sasha Forbes, policy associate for Reconnecting America. “Federal grant opportunities can often be the catalyst that leads to successful completion of a project.”

While more data is needed to better quantify the impacts of transit on rural economies and residents, the cross-section of examples included in this study should help to inform the ongoing federal transportation discussion as well as provide guidance for other communities dealing with the same challenges.

Copies of the report may be downloaded here.

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