The National Academies

NCHRP 08-144 [Anticipated]

Best Practices in Determining Rural Transit Fleet Size – How to Provide Service for Changing Demographics of Rural Ridership (Right-sizing of Rural Transit Fleets)

  Project Data
Source: AASHTO Council on Public Transportation
Funds: $250,000
Staff Responsibility: Stephan A. Parker
Fiscal Year: 2021

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected in January 2022. The project statement will be available on this site. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

Finding the right size of a rural public transit fleet is a significant challenge for rural public transit agencies. Those providers must accommodate riders with varying needs at different hours during the day and in varying quantities. For example, Medicaid’s integrated setting rule helped move persons with disabilities out of sheltered workshops and into employment settings and integrate throughout the community. Many rural public transit agencies offer employment or medical shuttles from one community to another. As a result, the need of more varied vehicle sizes is becoming more prevalent. Rather than the typical 18 passenger light duty bus, a standard transit bus size among rural transit providers, transit agencies must consider vans with less capacity or medium-sized buses with higher seating counts. The decision over which size bus to purchase is agonizing for small, rural transit agencies since funding for replacement vehicles is so limited. And when replacement vehicle funding is available from the Federal Transit Administration, the decision remains difficult since local matching funds are required. Another factor weighing into this decision is the length of time a vehicle will be a part of a rural transit agency’s fleet.  Many of the vehicles procured by rural public transit agencies are kept two to three times past their federal useful life before replacement funds are available, meaning the size of the vehicle chosen has to be useful well into the future.

It is vital for rural transit agencies to know how to “right-size” their transit fleets, given the changing demographics of rural ridership. State departments of transportation, the funding sources for many of these rural transit agencies, would benefit from understanding what the best practices are from other states about determining rural transit fleet size, to help assist their own transit providers.

The objective of this research is to determine the best practices from the perspective of state departments of transportation and transit providers about how changing demographics and policies (federal public transportation and health care-related policies) are affecting decisions to procure vehicles and what vehicles (size and capacity) are eventually purchased by rural public transit systems to meet these ever-changing needs. And, more importantly, what are the costs associated with those decisions.

Some of the specific tasks that could be a part of this work include, but not limited to,
1. Collecting and analyzing data from the 2010 Census and the Household Travel Survey to determine demographic changes in rural communities.
2. Surveying state departments of transportation and FTA Section 5311 transit providers about procurement practices for vehicles.
3. Selectively interviewing stakeholders and developing case studies based on interviews.
4. Developing recommendations for best practices for state departments of transportation and rural transit providers.

This research provides significant benefits for transit offices of state departments of transportation and their transit providers and will help answer the following pressing industry questions:
1. How demographic changes are affecting vehicle procurement decisions;
2. How policy (federal public transportation and health care-related policies) changes are affecting vehicle procurement decisions;
3. What types of vehicles are procured and the reasons for those procurements;
4. What are the costs associated with those procurements; and
5. What lessons are learned from this process?

To create a link to this page, use this URL: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4955