Public transportation in rural areas is unique and complex, causing rural transit managers to face different challenges than transit managers in larger cities. Here are the top 10 facts about rural populations and transportation that may surprise you taken from the SURTC Rural Transit Fact Book:
10. Rural populations are, on average, older than urban populations. The median age in rural areas is 42.9 versus 36.2 in urban areas. This affects public transportation because as the population ages, those individuals will want to utilize more public transportation as they move away from driving.
9. Rural residents have a greater reliance on vehicles than urban ones. Only 4% of rural residents do not have a vehicle available compared to 10% of urban households. Because there is less public transportation options available due to lack of infrastructure, rural residents rely more on individual transportation.
8. Rural residents make fewer trips per day, but average a greater distance traveled at 12.5 miles per trip compared to 8.9 miles for urban travelers. As a result of longer trip distances and greater reliance on personal vehicles, rural residents drive more miles per year than their urban counterparts.
7. The most cited reasons that rural residents use public transit for are work, followed by school/church and medical visits.
6. In the 2009 American Housing Survey, public transit was available to only 13% of rural residents compared to the national average of 57%. It also took an average of 8:11 for a rural individual to travel to the nearest transit stop in comparison to the national average of 6:06.
5. The average fleet size for rural transit providers is 16.7 vehicles – similar to previous years.
4. 79% of counties had some level of rural transit service available in 2013, an increase from the previous year.
3. Total annual ridership for rural transit systems decreased 3% in 2013.
2. Rural transit agencies provided 495 million miles of service and 28 million hours of service in 2013.
1. 69% of rural transit vehicles are owned by the transit provider, while the majority of the rest are owned by a public agency for the service provider.
What becomes clear from the above statistics is that rural transit managers face challenges with increasing ridership in rural areas. This is due to the unique characteristics that rural areas face, making infrastructure and availability a challenge for public transit. One way to work towards overcoming these challenges is for rural transit managers to implement the right transit software that will increase efficiency in scheduling and reporting. This will allow agencies to more accurately address rider needs in rural areas by addressing gaps in current routes, which will eventually lend itself to increased ridership.