The National Academies

TCRP A-21 [Completed]

Innovations to Improve the Productivity, Efficiency, and Quality of Public Transportation in Rural and Small Urban Areas

  Project Data
Funds: $148,662
Research Agency: KFH Group
Principal Investigator: Ken Hosen
Effective Date: 8/25/1999
Completion Date: 5/30/2001

The objective of this research was to develop a guidebook that identifies transferable, successful innovative initiatives for improving productivity, efficiency, and quality of small urban and rural public transportation for the 21st century. The research identified innovations, clarified misperceptions, and provides a valuable resource to people who may implement or adapt new concepts to improve public transportation in their community.

Public transportation services in rural and small urban areas try to meet the very diverse mobility needs of individuals with few transportation alternatives. These transit providers are usually located in low-density communities that may cover a large geographic area. Services typically operate with very constrained funds and often must coordinate with numerous other local organizations, including social services, health care providers, recreational facilities, nutrition centers, education and training facilities, and others. The many differences among small urban and rural communities result in a wide variety of transit solutions.

The relationships among public, not-for-profit, and private providers of transportation in rural and small urban areas add complexity to an already challenging environment. Administrative requirements and procedures related to the acquisition and use of public funding for transportation from multiple sources, in particular from federal programs, are often misinterpreted. Many "myths" have evolved over time in rural and small urban areas regarding actions and initiatives that can and cannot be undertaken, while maintaining eligibility to receive public financial assistance.

Individuals who operate and manage public transportation services in rural and small urban areas wear many hats--covering such responsibilities as service operations, planning, human resources, finance, grants writing, maintenance, purchasing, communications, customer information, fare policy, and new technology. In carrying out their many responsibilities, often in isolated locations, these individuals are hindered in their efforts to learn about the innovations of their counterparts.

Ironically, many argue that these challenges have spawned numerous improvements to rural and small urban public transportation services throughout the United States--necessity being the mother of invention. In addition, change is often easier to initiate in a small organization than a large one. Disseminating information about these innovations has, however, been difficult because it requires investments of both time and money that are not in great abundance among these small, dispersed organizations.

The results of this study are important to individuals who provide public transportation in rural and small urban areas; local, regional, state, and federal planners and funders of these services; and the administrators of these programs at state departments of transportation.

Status: The research is completed and has been published as TCRP Report 70: Guidebook for Change and Innovation at Rural and Small Urban Transit Systems.

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