AASHTO and the Standing Committee on Public Transportation has a goal of doubling transit ridership to 20 billion trips by 2035. With the population of seniors expecting to double by 2050 what are the efforts that rural transit providers and state departments of transportation are undertaking to increase the share of rural transit riders (a higher percentage of the senior population). While seniors are, and are likely to remain, a primary user demographic of rural public transit, states and public transit systems needs mechanisms to increase ridership in all or certain segments including working-age adults with disabilities, secondary or post-secondary students, or residents of low-income or zero-car households. For rural demand response services, increasing ridership can also require increasing service levels. Therefore, in many states and localities, best practices for increasing ridership must be combined with increased investment. Increasing investment requires making a case for that investment. A large part of making that case is demonstrating a return on investment. Having the best practices available to demonstrate the ROI of rural transit investment in rural areas will help maintain and expand current investments. While ROI can be a large part of making the case for investment, there can be other “messages” that resonate with state and local decision-makers therefore this research will also address the full range of methods that can be used to justify state and local investment in rural transit services.
The objective of this research is produce a Best Practices Guide that will cover the interconnected topics of practices to: (1) increase rural transit ridership; (2) practices for measuring the Return-On-Investment (ROI) of rural transit investment and (3) practices to communicate (market) the importance of rural transit investment. The results of this research will provide State DOTs and their rural subrecipients with additional tools to advance the contribution public transit to meeting the mobility needs of our rural communities. In particular tools that will assist in measuring and communicating the benefits of rural transit services and investment.