The current approach to rural transportation infrastructure leaves over a million households stranded without access to a vehicle. It also forces those who drive to travel longer than ever before, just to accomplish the same set of basic tasks.
New research by Transportation for America and Third Way released on September 9, 2021 offers recommendations and case studies for a better approach.
The success stories in this short report show how some innovative rural communities and small towns are working upstream against current federal policy to offer short trips and a high quality of life to their residents.
In Hillsboro, Virginia, a small town worked to slow down traffic on a state highway through their town to improve their economic prospects and the safety of residents and visitors alike.
In Erwin, Tennessee, high quality broadband and an economic strategy focused on downtown is creating new economic opportunities.
In Paris, Texas, a new bus transit system has “exceeded all expectations.” The report features other stories from Burlington, NC, Millinocket, ME, Oxford, MS, and Natchez, MS.
Unfortunately, federal policy undercuts these kinds of efforts, and the most recent bipartisan infrastructure bill—despite some welcome inclusions for expanding broadband service—is no exception.
To implement this bill in a way that works for rural Americans—not against them—the report recommends:
- Invest heavily in transit in rural America;
- Prioritize projects that improve access and reduce trip length;
- Prioritize safety for everyone in developed areas like town centers;
- Prioritize maintaining rural highways over expanding them;
- Connect rural areas by making a sizeable investment in better broadband access; and
- Recalibrate federal agency policies and grant programs to better support rural town centers.
Photo of downtown Erwin, Tennessee is by Andrew Tobin via Flickr.