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Rural transportation services

Health Factors: Access to Care Housing & Transit
Decision Makers: Community Development Professionals Employers & Businesses Local Government State Government
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 20-49% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Description

Rural transportation services provide transportation across large areas that have low population densities and lack established public transportation systems. Services may include shared transportation options such as publicly-funded buses and vans running on fixed routes and schedules, more flexible pick-up and drop-off with smaller vehicles (e.g., dial-a-ride and other demand-response programs), or volunteer ridesharing programs (Mattson 2016).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased mobility
Increased access to health care
Increased access to employment

Evidence of Effectiveness

Rural transportation services are a suggested strategy to increase mobility and access to health care for rural populations (National RTAP, RHIhub-Transportation). Available evidence suggests that such services can increase mobility among vulnerable populations such as elderly adults, people with disabilities, and individuals with low incomes (Marr 2015), and increase access to medical services (Yang 2017), grocery stores, other retailers, and community activities (Bond 2017). Rural transportation services may also increase access to jobs (Thakuriah 2011b), provide opportunities for higher wages for individuals who live in rural areas (Thakuriah 2013), and benefit local economies (Peng 1998). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Rural transportation networks often have high per capita costs, and are frequently personalized based on the needs of users (Stommes 2005). Efforts to track and evaluate the operating costs of rural demand-response programs can help improve performance and reduce program costs (TRB-Ellis 2009). Researchers also suggest that organizations that serve residents in rural areas partner to coordinate existing efforts to transport clients with similar routes or destinations (Bond 2017, Marr 2015).

A Texas-based study suggests that taxpayers value rural transportation services for elderly adults and are willing to financially support such services (Israel Schwarzlose 2014). Cost benefit analysis finds positive net benefits for rural transportation services overall (Godavarthy 2015). 

Implementation

United States

The US Department of Transportation provides capital and operating assistance for rural transit through Section 5311 grants. Low income populations are considered as a factor in the grant formula (US DOT-Section 5311). As of 2014, 81% of US counties have some form of rural transit service; 428 rural transit agencies provide fixed-route service and 266 rural transit agencies offer demand-response (e.g., dial-a-ride) and fixed-route services across the US (Mattson 2016).

The Rural Passenger Transportation Technical Assistance Program (RPTTAP) and the Tribal Passenger Transportation Technical Assistance Program (TPTTAP) provide technical assistance to small communities to create and improve rural and tribal public transportation (CTAA-Rural). These programs were created by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and are administered by Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA-Rural).

Some state government agencies have established vanpools to transport rural residents to employment opportunities in rural and urban areas; California and Wisconsin are two examples (CalVans, Sampson 2014, WI DOA-Vanpool). 

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Administration’s (WI DOA’s) state vanpool which transports state and non-state employees from rural or distance areas to jobs in Madison is one example of a rural transportation service in Wisconsin (WI DOA-Vanpool).

Implementation Resources

APTA-Resources - American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Resource library. Accessed on July 26, 2017
Edrington 2014 - Edrington S, Brooks J, Cherrington L, et al. Guidebook: Managing operating costs for rural and small urban public transit systems. College Station, TX: Texas A&M Transportation Institute; 2014. Accessed on August 23, 2017
Mattson 2016 - Mattson J. Rural transit fact book 2016. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University (NDSU), Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, Small Urban and Rural Transit Center; 2016. Accessed on August 23, 2017
National RTAP - National Rural Transit Assistance Program (National RTAP). History of National RTAP. Accessed on August 16, 2017
National RTAP-State toolkit - National Rural Transit Assistance Program (National RTAP). State RTAP manager’s toolkit. Accessed on August 23, 2017
TRB-Ellis 2009 - Ellis E, McCollom B. TCRP Report 136. Guidebook for rural demand-response transportation: Measuring, assessing, and improving performance. Washington,DC: Transportation Research Board (TRB); 2009. Accessed on July 26, 2017

Citations - Description

Mattson 2016 - Mattson J. Rural transit fact book 2016. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University (NDSU), Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, Small Urban and Rural Transit Center; 2016. Accessed on August 23, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Bond 2017* - Bond M, Brown JR, Wood J. Adapting to challenge: Examining older adult transportation in rural communities. Case Studies on Transport Policy. 2017. Accessed on August 23, 2017
Godavarthy 2015 - Godavarthy RP, Mattson J, Ndembe E. Cost–benefit analysis of rural and small urban transit in the United States. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2015;2533:141-148. Accessed on August 23, 2017
Israel Schwarzlose 2014* - Israel Schwarzlose AA, Mjelde JW, Dudensing RM, et al. Willingness to pay for public transportation options for improving the quality of life of the rural elderly. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 2014;61:1-14. Accessed on August 23, 2017
Marr 2015 - Marr EJ. Assessing transportation disadvantage in rural Ontario, Canada: A case study of Huron County. Journal of Rural and Community Development. 2015;10(2):100-120. Accessed on August 23, 2017
National RTAP - National Rural Transit Assistance Program (National RTAP). History of National RTAP. Accessed on August 16, 2017
Peng 1998* - Peng ZR, Nelson AC. Rural transit services: A local economic and fiscal impact analysis. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 1998;(1623):57–62. Accessed on July 26, 2017
RHIhub-Transportation - Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub). Transportation to support rural healthcare. Accessed on August 23, 2017
Stommes 2005 - Stommes ES, Brown DM. Moving rural residents to work. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2005;(1903):45–53. Accessed on July 26, 2017
Thakuriah 2011b* - Thakuriah (Vonu) P. Variations in employment transportation outcomes: Role of site-level factors. Papers Regional Science. 2011;90(4):755–72. Accessed on July 26, 2017
Thakuriah 2013* - Thakuriah (Vonu) P, Persky J, Soot S, Sriraj PS. Costs and benefits of employment transportation for low-wage workers: An assessment of job access public transportation services. Evaluation and Program Planning. 2013;37:31–42. Accessed on July 26, 2017
TRB-Ellis 2009 - Ellis E, McCollom B. TCRP Report 136. Guidebook for rural demand-response transportation: Measuring, assessing, and improving performance. Washington,DC: Transportation Research Board (TRB); 2009. Accessed on July 26, 2017
Yang 2017* - Yang H, Cherry CR. Use characteristics and demographics of rural transit riders: A case study in Tennessee. Transportation Planning and Technology. 2017;40(2):213-227. Accessed on August 23, 2017

Citations - Implementation

CalVans - California Vanpool Authority (CalVans). California’s single source for ridesharing to work or college in a CalVans vehicle. Accessed on August 18, 2017
CTAA-Rural - Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). Summary: Rural & tribal passenger transportation technical assistance through CTAA. Accessed on August 23, 2017
Mattson 2016 - Mattson J. Rural transit fact book 2016. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University (NDSU), Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, Small Urban and Rural Transit Center; 2016. Accessed on August 23, 2017
Sampson 2014 - Sampson R. CalVans: An easy ride to the hard work on a farm. California Vanpool Authority. 2014. Accessed on August 18, 2017
US DOT-Section 5311 - US Department of Transportation (US DOT). Fact sheet: Formula grants for rural areas, section 5311. 2012. Accessed on July 26, 2017
WI DOA-Vanpool - Wisconsin Department of Administration (WI DOA). Joining a vanpool. Accessed on August 18, 2017

Page Last Updated

August 23, 2017

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