The National Academies

TCRP H-62 [Anticipated]

Innovations for Equitable Rural Transit Economic Benefit Analyses

  Project Data
Funds: 300000
Staff Responsibility: Jamaal Schoby
Comments: In development
Fiscal Year: 2024

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

Several limited cost–benefit analyses (CBA) studies have been conducted for rural public transportation over the years, with varying results. A core challenge is that rural transit provides services in larger areas of lower populations, often with minimal prior use of transit and long-established personal travel patterns. Inevitably, rural transit costs exceed revenues, build-up of usage will be slow, and the financial outcome exclusive of societal economic benefits will be weak.

The societal beneficiaries of rural transit are challenging to define, in part because areas are so large and target populations so diffuse and of many different types. The benefits are also difficult to quantify in part because of a lack of suitable methodologies and limitations of baseline data. Current standard appraisal schemes and available methodologies are seen as a barrier when quantifying benefits of rural transit. Additionally, little is known about any differing CBA impacts rural transit has for individuals with and without disabilities.

Public transportation access helps to promote equity and opportunity within communities for people who have been systematically divested for economic, physical, and social reasons. We need to better understand the equity issues and to incorporate them into the appraisal schemes when gauging the societal benefits that transit provides to rural communities (e.g., reduction in foregone trips, access to healthcare, mobility for persons with disabilities, social connectedness, aging in place). The economies of scale that are evident for urban transit may not apply for rural communities. Instead, the economic impacts manifest when quality transit services provide access to work and education, which promotes local businesses and bolsters labor supply in rural areas.

The objective of this research is to identify current and emerging practices in defining benefits and impacts associated with rural transit, in forecasting/quantifying them, and in assigning monetary values. This research will identify and develop new methods/tools to assess the broader benefits and impacts of public transit with consideration of mobility equity and other socioeconomic aspects for rural communities.

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