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Thoughts on Transit

The Impact of Funding on the Future of Rural Transit

by Ecolane / July 26, 2016

The public transportation industry has come a long way since its humble beginning as an alternative transit option for low income individuals, couples, and families. As this stigma continues to subside and public transportation continues to play a more fundamental role within the transit community, agencies will need to focus much of their efforts on seeking out additional funding opportunities. However, finding viable funding opportunities has been, and will likely continue to be, an ongoing challenge within the public transportation industry. Although a percentage of an agency’s funding can be attributed to its farebox collections, the majority of transit agencies in America only realize recovery ratios between 25% and 30%. Meaning, the remaining 70% - 75% is coming from state and federal taxes. While it’s important to note that these taxes will vary from region to region, the end result remains the same; funding is limited.

For rural transit agencies in particular, finding subsequent funding opportunities is even more of a challenge. With limited resources and restricted capital funding, it can be extremely difficult to achieve the financing needed to scale, increase operational efficiencies, or adopt the technology and software needed to create a streamlined and effective transit operation.

The importance of funding for rural transit agencies

In addition to being challenged with a lack of funding, rural transit agencies struggle to find funding sources that truly comprehend the impact that their operations have on the community. In fact, a large majority of rural transit providers are still leveraging outdated systems, but are unable to upgrade or adopt new technology due to a lack of funding. In order to effectively serve their riders, the community, and the environment, rural transit agencies must have access to the funding needed to facilitate proper marketing and communication efforts, employ increased resources, and enhance the rider experience.

  1. Marketing & Communication

It may sound somewhat ridiculous, but many of the legislators within rural communities aren’t even aware that public transportation options are available in their area. In addition, most citizens that live in rural locations have the misconception that public transit services are only for those who have physical disabilities, and are under the impression that they need to qualify in order utilize public transportation alternatives. With additional funding, rural transit agencies would be able to allocate more time, effort, and financing towards educating the community on the options available, and minimize, if not eliminate, the confusion often associated with public transit in rural communities.

  1. Increased Resources

Simply put, less funding equates to fewer resources, and with fewer resources it can be very difficult for rural transit agencies to operate in a way that effectively serves the community. Through additional funding opportunities, rural transit providers would have the ability to employ substantially more resources in-house. From employees and buses to software and added features, organizations would not only be able to streamline their internal operations, but they would also help to stimulate the local economy by creating additional job opportunities within their communities.

  1. Enhanced Rider Experience

The rider experience is at the heart of public transportation. With the ultimate goal of providing safer, more convenient, and more affordable transit alternatives to local communities, rural transit providers must invest in the necessary equipment and technology, like rural transit software, needed to deliver a superior rider experience. With the proper funding opportunities, rural transit providers are able to effectively support these initiatives, and are ultimately able to help riders feel more confident and safe when utilizing public transportation alternatives.

Although public transportation has made significant strides in terms of its public perception and ridership, rural transit agencies are struggling to keep up. Demand for rural transportation options are continuing to rise, and as such, providers must have access to viable funding opportunities in order to successfully accommodate demands and deliver the experience that transit riders have come to expect.

Interested in learning how rural transit software can help your agency create a more efficient and effective operation? Download the Perry County Case Study to learn how they were able to perform a higher number of trips at a substantially lower cost.

Perry County Case Study

Tags: Rural Transit

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