Though finding funding for any transit agency can be a challenge, this can especially be the case for rural agencies with limited resources and restricted capital funding. When an agency is cash-strapped, finding any money for items that are needed to help grow operations and increase efficiency, such as scheduling software or new vehicles for the fleet, can seem almost impossible.
However, there are ways that rural agencies can find funding for the things that they need, and it all comes down to this: getting creative.
What are some creative ways that a rural agency can find funding? Take these tips from Ecolane experts that have experience first-hand working in rural agencies:
Ask for direct donationsSeemingly obvious or not, asking transit supporters directly for donations is a simple way to get funding. Rural agencies may be surprised at how willing supporters are to donate towards the cause. You’ll never know if you don’t ask, so asking your biggest supporters or community advocates is a great place to start.
Use your resources & advertiseAs a transit agency, you have access to one of the easiest advertising mediums: your buses. So use them. You can use your fleet vehicles to advertise for operations or capital and sell advertising space to outside businesses for revenue.
Involve the local communityThose in the local community are directly affected by public transportation and they use it frequently, so why not involve them in the funding process? An example can include having a play put on by the local community where all ticket proceeds go towards the agency, or any other event you can think of that the community could easily (and would be willing to) put on for your cause.
Involve local legislationGetting involved and building relationships with local lobbyists can be critical for rural agencies to secure funding. By involving the community and alerting decision-makers as to what is going on, they can help make a difference for your agency.
Involve local businessesAs a public transit provider, you are constantly taking passengers to and from local businesses, hospitals, schools, etc. Why not target the places that you are taking your passengers to? Without public transit, local businesses would suffer since riders would have no way of getting to their business, and if these businesses understood this, they would be willing to help out with your funding efforts, too.
Find the right peopleThough this may not directly affect finding funding, it does affect the way that you allocate your funding resources. It can be tough finding the right drivers that are committed to serving passengers and are dedicated to the job with little pay. You’ll have to get creative finding the right people, too. By reaching out to organizations that have access to younger retirees, you can find people who are qualified to work and are responsible, and also are more flexible about pay since they are retired. You can look towards organizations such as the Retired Teacher’s Association or AARP to find the right drivers for your agency.
The major challenge for rural agencies, in addition to the lack of funding, is that funding sources don’t usually realize the impact that transportation has on the community. With all transit agencies, the problems are the same, but resources are especially harder to come by for rural agencies. By getting creative, rural agencies can find unconventional ways to get funding and work around these problems.
It’s important for agencies to note that if you are able to secure funding, be sure to follow FTA guidelines surrounding procurement.