Rural areas in every state experience myriad challenges related directly or indirectly to transportation. These challenges vary among and within states and in the ways transportation can be part of a solution. Air service from rural airports; access to health care; availability of emergency medical services during the Golden Hour after a crash; mobility of the elderly and people with disabilities; the movement of agricultural products to markets; human trafficking; access to high-speed electronic communications; natural disasters; passenger rail services; agency workforce recruitment and retention; and the relationship of transportation to economic development are just a few listed on public agendas.
The Transportation Research Board Executive Committee’s Subcommittee on Planning and Policy Review (SPPR) noted at its April 2018 meeting:
Rural regional services are transportation services that fall in the middle ground between intercity bus service and rural public transportation. The concept was the topic of a NCHRP report [NCHRP Research Report 861: Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility] that addressed the role of state transit program policies and regional planning agencies in the development of rural regional services. According to the report, these services improve mobility, employment, and education opportunities; provide access to healthcare and community services; and offer connectivity to the national transportation network.
Research is needed to assist state departments of transportation and other public agencies to help inform policy–driven investment decisions.
The objectives of this research are to (1) identify critical rural transportation issues that can be addressed by research through NCHRP and other research programs; (2) produce a research roadmap; and (3) submit, by November 1, 2018, at least five problem statements drawn from the research roadmap that are appropriate for consideration for NCHRP funding in the FY 2020 program.
Accomplishment of the project objectives will require at least the following tasks.
Task 1. Conduct an environmental scan of rural transportation issues in the United States and relevant countries.
Task 2. Review relevant literature and conduct a gap analysis. Submit an annotated literature review of relevant research and a draft recommended research roadmap.
Task 3. Organize and facilitate a 1-day workshop of up to 35 participants to identify critical rural transportation issues and needs; to review and provide direction on the draft recommended research roadmap; and to identify problem statements suitable for submission to the NCHRP and other research programs. The NCHRP project panel will assist the contractor in identifying workshop participants; panel members will be included as participants.
Task 4. Submit a draft final report to NCHRP that incorporates the results of the workshop and presents a research roadmap to address the identified needs. Include at least five problem statements, drawn from the research roadmap, suitable for consideration for NCHRP funding.
Task 5. Present the draft final report at the October 29-30, 2018, meeting of the AASHTO Special Committee on Research and Innovation (R&I) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Prepare a presentation that, upon revision, is suitable for posting on the NCHRP project webpage.
The research agency shall not begin work on the remaining tasks without NCHRP approval.
Task 6. Organize and facilitate a 1-day workshop as part of the January 13-17, 2019, TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, to identify critical rural transportation issues and needs; to review and provide direction on the draft recommended research roadmap; and to identify problem statements suitable for submission to the NCHRP and other research programs.
Task 7. Produce a revised final report that incorporates additional feedback received through follow-on activities (including the workshop at the TRB Annual Meeting in January 2019) as proposed by the research team and approved by the project panel. Prepare an updated presentation that, upon revision, is suitable for posting on the NCHRP project webpage. The revised final deliverables are due in October 2019.
NCHRP has used research roadmaps to develop research needs statements for a variety of topics, and several new roadmaps are in development.
STATUS: Research in progress. The first workshop was held on Friday, September 28, 2018, in Denver, immediately preceding the National Rural and Intercity Bus Conference in Breckenridge, Colorado. The panel members were part of the 35 participants. The final in-person workshop was held Thursday, January 17, 2019, from 8 am to noon, as part of the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. A draft final report is anticipated in August 2019.