The National Academies

NCHRP 08-52 [Completed]

Best Practices to Enhance the Transportation/Land-Use Connection in Rural America

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Research Agency: Renaissance Planning Group
Principal Investigator: Hannah Twaddell
Effective Date: 5/12/2005
Completion Date: 1/1/2007


Rural communities throughout the United States are facing a wide and complex range of challenges and experiencing trends that both affect and are affected by the transportation system, including:
  • Macroeconomic changes, such as the shift away from an agrarian-based economy;
  • Demographic changes;
  • Rapid growth in some rural areas and population decline in others;
  • Funding challenges associated with operating, maintaining, and building transportation infrastructure;
  • Vehicle and pedestrian safety;
  • Population isolation and inadequate access to jobs and services;
  • Inadequate attention to public involvement and access to transportation and land-use decisionmaking; and
  • Environmental issues.

While urban areas may be facing many of the same or similar issues, the presence of such challenges in a rural setting poses a unique set of circumstances that require a distinct set of actions. Although abundant research findings exist on strategies and measures to address impacts of growth and development on transportation systems and services in urban and metropolitan areas, there has been little corresponding research to address how potential development and decline in rural areas affect transportation systems and services.

The purpose of this project is to identify key, common problems affecting rural transportation systems and to identify measures designed to address them in enhancing the transportation/land-use connection.

The research approach is intended to be broad in order to facilitate a comprehensive scan of issues and potential solutions. Innovations that merit consideration for rural communities include those that:
  • Connect land use and economic development to transportation services and programs,
  • Enhance collaboration and decisionmaking,
  • Create funding alternatives,
  • Address environmental and safety concerns, and
  • Meet the transportation needs of mobility-challenged rural residents.

The final report and guidebook will identify ways that communities are achieving and funding accessibility, mobility, and safety programs and services while maintaining a uniquely rural quality-of-life.

This project constitutes an initial investigation into an understudied topic. It is anticipated that the best practices highlighted in this study will provide information to rural America's decisionmakers, implementing agencies, and professionals in the land-use/transportation arena. The final product will include materials that contribute to educational outreach efforts and offer recommendations and insight for future research.


The objective of this project is to provide a "best practices" guidebook including case studies that address key, common transportation issues in rural areas associated with development and growth or decline.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.

TASKS (1.) Identify transportation-related problems and trends that are common to rural areas throughout the United States. Issue identification should address trends in socio-cultural and demographic patterns, economic and community development, impacts on the natural and built environment, and transportation and land-use decisionmaking. ( 2.) Identify effective and sustainable "best practices" suitable for rural America that address the transportation-related problems and trends identified in Task 1. (3.) Conduct a survey of stakeholders to:
  • Assess the commonality of issues identified in Task 1 and
  • Collect information from respondents regarding their knowledge and use of strategic measures and sustainability "best practices" as identified in Task 2.

The survey instrument should provide an opportunity for respondents to offer additional best practices and suggest potential case studies that may be studied further (see Task 4).

In an effort to collect information from a broad range of stakeholders, groups such as the following should be evaluated for inclusion in the survey:
  • State Transportation Departments and Agencies
  • State Planning and Land Use Offices
  • Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA)
  • Rural and Regional Planning Agencies
  • National Association of Regional Councils (NARC)
  • National Association of Towns and Townships (NATAT)
  • National Association of Counties (NACO)
  • American Planning Association (APA Rural Planning and Transportation Planning Division members)
  • National Conference of Mayors
  • National Conference of Black Mayors
  • National Congress of American Indians

(4.) The contractor will propose a list of potential case study candidates for review by the panel. The list will include information sufficient for the panel to select 10 to 20 case studies for further study. The list of potential case studies should reflect a diversity of rural economies, problems addressed, and geographic distribution. (5.) The contractor will complete an analysis of the selected case studies. Case studies should be uniformly formatted, including graphics/photographs where appropriate, and be no more than two pages in length. Analysis of case studies should include:
  • The issue(s) addressed;
  • A description of the geographic area and its characteristics;
  • A description of the strategy or program that was developed, and key involved stakeholders and decisionmakers;
  • The costs and/or resources used to implement the strategy or program;
  • The key factors contributing to the success of the strategy or program;
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the strategy or program with particular emphasis on transferability;
  • A summary of key lessons learned by stakeholders and program/service implementers; and
  • Contact person.

(6.) Within 9 months of the contract's execution, submit a draft final report including a guidebook with case studies and a draft electronic presentation, featuring:
  • Discussion of transportation-related problems common to rural areas;
  • Innovative approaches to growth and development or decline in rural areas and sustainable measures and best practices enabling rural communities' transportation systems and services to respond appropriately;
  • Case studies; and
  • Recommendations regarding the need for future research, education, and training.

The electronic presentation on a CD-ROM in Microsoft PowerPoint format should be geared to educating decisionmakers and implementing agencies. Slides that enable the presentation to be tailored for presentation to the general public should be included.

Status: This project has been completed. 

Product availability:
The final report has been published as NCHRP Report 582.

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