Rural Transportation Management

Improving Transportation Efficiency and Diversity in Rural Areas


TDM Encyclopedia

Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Updated 6 September 2019

This chapter describes transportation management strategies suitable for implementation in lower-density rural and suburban areas. These can help achieve a variety of objectives, including improved transportation options, increased transportation affordability, reduced congestion and parking problems associated with tourism and special events, and flexibility to help preserve special cultural and environmental features.




Rural communities are areas with relatively low development densities, typically less than 1 resident per acre. Many TDM strategies are suitable for implementation in such areas (Weir and McCabe 2012). Rural community TDM can help achieve the following objectives:

·         Increase Transportation Options.

·         Provide Basic Access.

·         Improve Transportation Affordability.

·         Increase opportunities for enjoyable and Healthy exercise.

·         Address traffic congestion and parking problems associated with Tourist and Special Event transportation.

·         Create attractive Bus and Rail Stations where residents can wait in comfort and security.

·         Improve Community Livability.

·         Help preserve special community and environmental features (Context Sensitive Design).

·         Improve transportation Safety.



Many rural areas have significant levels of poverty, and non-drivers often experience significant isolation. As a result, strategies that improve affordable transportation options for non-drivers can provide significant benefits.


Geographic Terms

Geographic areas are often categories in the following ways:

·         Urban – relatively high density (10+ residents and 5+ housing units per acre), mixed-use development, multi-modal transportation system.

·         Suburban – medium density (2-10 residents, 1-5 housing units per acre), segregated land use (e.g., residential in one area, commercial in another, industrial in another), Automobile Dependent transportation system.

·         Town – Smaller urban centers (generally less than 20,000 residents).

·         Village – Small urban center (generally less than 1,000 residents).

·         Exurban – low density (less than 2 residents or 1 housing unit per acre), mostly farms and undeveloped lands, located near enough to an urban area that residents often commute, shop and use services there.

·         Rural – low density (less than 2 residents or 1 housing unit per acre), mostly farms and undeveloped lands, with a relatively independent identify and economy (i.e., residents do not usually commute, shop and use services in an urban area).



Because of their lower densities, rural areas tend to be Automobile Dependent. Most trips made by personal automobile and there is often relatively little demand for alternative modes, such as ridesharing, transit and cycling. Most alternative modes experience economies of scale: increased demand can lead to improved services. TDM strategies that give automobile owners an incentive to use alternative modes for some of their trips can result in a positive cycle of improved service and further increases in demand for alternatives.


For example, there may be dozens of residents who commute on the same highway in their single occupant vehicle. Under current circumstances there may be little incentive to share rides, so non-drivers have poor travel options. A TDM strategy that gives these commuters an incentive to rideshare (HOV Priority, Road Pricing, Commuter Financial Incentives, etc.) can lead motorists to form carpools, vanpools, or justify transit service.



Improve Land Use Accessibility

Land use Accessibility refers to the distance that people must travel to reach obtain goods, services and participate in activities. In recent years many rural communities have lost public services, such as schools, stores, medical centers, banks, garages and taverns, causing rural residents to travel further, and significantly reducing accessibility for non-drivers. Rural service reductions are often justified on efficiency grounds, but the cost effectiveness analysis often overlooks increased travel costs. For example, it may seem cost effective to consolidate several small schools into one larger school when only direct facility costs are considered, but not when the additional transportation costs to students and their families are considered.


Rural TDM can therefore include Smart Growth land use management to improve Accessibility by Clustering development into settlements, rather than dispersed throughout a rural area (Twaddell and Emerine, 2007). For example, public schools, shops, medical clinics and other public services can be located close together in villages, which also contain housing suitable for people who are transportation disadvantaged (Location Efficient Development). This can increase transportation and housing affordability.



Improve Transportation Options

The following TDM strategies can help improve transportation options in order to help provide Basic Mobility and Transportation Affordability, and to improve opportunities for physical exercise.


Nonmotorized Transportation Planning

Many rural communities do not accommodate nonmotorized travel well, due to inadequate facilities and increasing motor vehicle traffic volumes and speeds. A variety of Pedestrian and Cycling improvements can be implemented in rural communities. This improves transportation options, and allows residents and visitors to enjoy healthy physical exercise.


Benefits of Wider Road Shoulders (Ronkin 2008)


Safety highways with paved shoulders have lower accident rates, as paved shoulders:

• Provide space to make evasive maneuvers.

• Accommodate driver error.

• Add a recovery area to regain control of a vehicle, as well as lateral clearance to roadside objects such as guardrail, signs and poles (highways require a “clear zone,” and paved shoulders give the best recoverable surface).

• Provide space for disabled vehicles to stop or drive slowly.

• Provide increased sight distance for through vehicles and for vehicles entering the roadway (rural: in cut sections or brushy areas; urban: in areas with many sight obstructions).

• Contribute to driving ease and reduced driver strain.

• Reduce passing conflicts between motor vehicles and bicyclists and pedestrians.

• Make the crossing pedestrian more visible to motorists.

• Provide for storm water discharge farther from the travel lanes, reducing hydroplaning, splash and spray to following vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.


Capacity highways with paved shoulders can carry more traffic, as paved shoulders:

• Provide more intersection and safe stopping sight distance.

• Allow for easier exiting from travel lanes to side streets and roads (also a safety benefit).

• Provide greater effective turning radius for trucks.

• Provide space for offtracking of truck's rear wheels in curved sections.

• Provide space for disabled vehicles, mail delivery and bus stops.

• Provide space for bicyclists to ride at their own pace.


Maintenance highways with paved shoulders are easier to maintain, as paved shoulders:

• Provide structural support to the pavement.

• Discharge water further from the travel lanes, reducing the undermining of the base and subgrade.

• Provide space for maintenance operations and snow storage.

• Provide space for portable maintenance signs.

• Facilitate painting of fog lines.



Many highway agencies and local governments now specify that all highways and arterials without curbs have a smooth shoulder of 1-3 metres wherever possible, in part to more safely accommodate cyclists (ODOT 2012). Shoulder pavements also make roads more convenient and safer for motorists, increase highway capacity, facilitate maintenance, snow removal, and help extend roadway life by reducing edge deterioration (see box). Gravel roads and driveways connecting to a highway should be paved at least 4.5 metres (15 feet) back to minimize loose gravel from spilling onto the shoulder.


Table 1            Highway Shoulder Width By Traffic Volume (Metres) (ODOT 2012, Table 7-2)


ADT < 250

ADT 250-400

ADT 400-DHV 100

DHV 100-200

DHV 200-400

DHV >400

Rural Arterials







Rural Collectors







Rural Local Routes







ADT = Average Daily Traffic               DHV = Design Hour Volume (0.6 = 2 ft; 1.2 = 4 ft.; 1.8 = 6 ft; 2.4 = 8 ft.)


Table 1 summarizes recommended shoulder bikelane widths. Extra width is required on steep grades and where there is a curb. A bikeway of 1.5-1.8 meter width is needed under such conditions. On shoulder widening projects there may be opportunities to save money by reducing the thickness of aggregate (50-75 mm) and asphalt (100 mm) if:

·         There are no planned roadway widening projects for the road section in the foreseeable future.

·         The existing road shoulder area and roadbed are stable and there is adequate drainage.

·         Existing travel lanes have adequate width and are in stable condition.

·         The horizontal curvature is not excessive, so wheels of large trucks do not track onto the shoulder.

·         The existing and projected vehicle traffic volumes and truck traffic are not excessive.



Design Tip

If rumble strips (raised or grooved markings at the edge of the road to alert motorists running off the roadway) are installed along highways, it is important to provide adequate smooth, paved shoulder beyond the rumble strips to accommodate cyclists. A good design is to have 400 mm grooves cut into the shoulder 150 mm to the right of the fog line (the white line at the edge of the road), leaving at least 1.8 m of smooth shoulder for cyclists.




Informal ridesharing is common in rural communities, and is a particularly important option for non-drivers and lower-income residents. Ridesharing programs can match carpools and organize vanpools. Vanpooling can be particularly effective in rural communities.


Transit Improvements

Rural communities can benefit from improved public transit service, including interregional bus and rail service, and local demand-response Shuttle Services. A basic level of transit service is defied as at least four round-trip stops a day, with weekend service, which allows residents to use transit for travel to an urban center and return in one day. Incentives for discretionary users (people who have the option of driving) to use rural transit services when possible (such as Market Reforms and HOV Priority) will increase demand, leading to further service improvements.


Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS 2011) research measured the portion of rural residents with access to scheduled intercity transportation between 2005 and 2010.  The analysis indicated that in 2010 89% of rural residents had access to intercity air, bus, ferry, or rail transportation, as compared to 93% five years earlier.


School Trip Management

This can help improve transportation options for students and parents. It can provide a variety of services, including transit, ridesharing and nonmotorized transportation improvements.



Telecommunications can often substitute for physical travel, which is particularly helpful in rural communities. Rural communities can encourage employers to accommodate telecommuting, provide public services by Internet, and help residents obtain Internet connections and skills.


Taxi Service Improvements

Taxi service is an important transportation option in many situations. Establishing formal taxi service can improve transportation options in many rural communities.


Bike/Transit Integration

This strategy is particularly suitable in rural areas, since many destinations are too far to easily walk to from a bus stop.


Universal Design

Universal Design refers to facility designs that accommodate the widest range of potential users, including people with mobility and visual impairments.


Freight Transport Management

In some cases I is possible to improve freight transport services, including intermodal terminals that allow more freight to be carried by rail rather than truck (Fuller, et a. 2011)



Address Occasional Traffic Problems

The following strategies can help address occasional traffic congestion and parking problems.


Tourist Transport Management

Many rural communities experience seasonal


Special Event Transport Management

This encourages the use of alternative travel modes to occasional events that draw large crowds, such as festivals, games and fairs, or when construction projects or disasters create temporary transportation problems.


Transportation Management Associations

Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) are private, non-profit, member-controlled organizations that provide transportation services in a particular area, such as a commercial center. TMAs can help provide a variety of transportation services, and are particularly important for coordinating transportation during special events or busy seasons.


Transportation Resilience Planning

This strategy can include efforts to prioritize travel in order to insure Basic Access, particularly for emergencies.



Strategies To Improve Livability and Protect Special Features

The following strategies can help improve community livability and help protect special cultural and environmental features in rural communities.


Context Sensitive Design

Context Sensitive Design (CSD) refers to roadway standards and development practices that are flexible and sensitive to community values. CSD can allow roads to preserve special features and accommodate special needs.


Speed Reductions

Speed management can help create safer roads that are more suitable for nonmotorized transportation.


Vehicle Restrictions

Vehicles can be restricted to reduce traffic on certain roads or a certain times. For example, certain roads may be restricted to local access trips only, and heavy truck traffic may be restricted on highways that pass through villages.


Access Management

This strategy can control vehicle traffic and create more Accessible land use patterns.




These strategies can encourage motorists to use alternative modes for some trips, leading to improved service.


Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) Programs

Employee CTR programs can help give individual commuters more incentive to use alternative modes such as Ridesharing, Transit and Telework. Since these modes tend to experience economies of scale, increased demand tends to improve overall Transportation Options.


HOV Priority

Some rural highways and ferry crossings are suitable for giving carpools, vanpools and transit vehicles priority.


Road Pricing and Distance-Based Fees

Some rural highways are suitable for road tolls. Distance-based vehicle fees (such as weight-distance fees and Pay-As-You-Drive vehicle insurance) can encourage vehicle travel reductions on all roadways.



Related Chapters

Developing Region TDM provides additional information on rural transportation improvement strategies. Smart Growth, Land Use Evaluation and Community Livability describe various strategies that can help achieve rural community development objectives.



Wit and Humor

I hear they plan to install a clock on the Leaning Tower of Pisa because someone asked, “What good is the inclination if you don't have the time?”



Examples and Case Studies

Hosen and Powell (2014) provide summaries of innovative rural transit services.


Best Practices in Rural Mobility Planning (TRB 2017)

The report, Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility, identifies and evaluates ways that government agencies can plan and provide rural regional mobility including local and intercity public transportation services. It describes various examples and case studies of rural public transportation programs.



Olympic Peninsula Public Transit Services

The Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington state consists of several towns and villages, many small and isolated, located in six counties that each has its own public transit system. By developing transportation terminals in each town, integrating schedules, and providing convenient information on transport options they have made it possible to travel between most communities, and around the entire Peninsula, by public transit. This benefits the many tourists and hikers who visit the region, and therefore tourism-related industries, and lower-income residents, many of which rely on public transit for basic mobility. For more information see:

·         Clallam Transit System (Port Angeles)
Grays Harbor Transit (Aberdeen)

·         Intercity Transit (Lacey, Olympia)

·         Jefferson Transit (Port Townsend)

·         Kitsap Transit (Bremerton, Port Orchard)

·         Mason County Transportation Authority (Shelton)



Opening Up Access To The Countryside - Next Stages Of Crow Act

Regulations enabling the issue of draft maps of open country and registered common land were laid in Parliament today keeping the Government on track to meet its target of opening up access to the countryside by 2005.


Part 1 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provides for a statutory right of access to open country and registered common land. The laying of the new regulations 'The Access to the Countryside (Maps in Draft Form) (England) Regulations 2001' today will allow the Countryside Agency to issue and consult on draft maps. The regulations will ensure that, when they are issued, draft maps will be widely available for inspection, including at many local libraries, local council offices, and on the internet.


The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consulted on the proposed regulations earlier this year and the report summarising the responses to the consultation is also published today and can be viewed on the internet at



When a Highway Is Also A Main Commercial Street

Many communities have major highways or arterials that also serve as main streets (major commercial streets). This requires streetscaping that balances the needs of local users (pedestrians, shoppers, employees, business owners, and residents) with the needs of through traffic (both auto and freight) to move safely and efficiently over longer distances.


The report, Main Street, California: A Guide for Improving Community and Transportation Vitality the by California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS 2014) provides specific planning and design guidance so that main streets function efficiently as multimodal transport facilities and as important civic spaces that support vibrant community life and ecological health. It explains, “Arriving at a shared vision for main streets requires a commitment to collaborative negotiation and shared responsibility. This document will assist transportation officials, designers, planners and stakeholders in making transportation decisions that are appropriate for the local context and that serve the greater traveling public.”


Similarly, the State of Oregon produced a handbook titled Main Street…When a Highway Runs Through It (DEA & Associates 1999), which offers guidance for communities to address these issues. It describes the many tools available to identify the problems and develop effective solutions for main streets that also serve as highways. As a complement to the Oregon Highway Design Manual, this handbook seeks to bring peaceful coexistence to the dual personas of downtown and highway. It proposes ways to design our main streets that make use of our natural inclination to drive as quickly or slowly as the roadway itself suggests. Its goal is to make main street a place that is attractive and that works from many points of view: pedestrian safety and activity, smooth traffic flow,economic vigor, and high quality of life.



Community Transportation Action Program

The Community Transportation Action Program (CTAP) was launched in August 1996 as a joint venture of five Ontario ministries: Transportation, Education and Training, Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, Community and Social Services, and Health.


CTAP's mandate was to provide transitional support to communities interested in restructuring and coordinating their local transportation services. CTAP supported the development of innovative, local transportation services.


In the past, exclusive relationships existed between users and providers of transportation. For example, school boards would typically contract school bus operators to provide transportation; municipalities would provide or contract public transit services; social service agencies would use volunteers and/or agency vans; and health facilities would primarily use ambulances. Improved coordination of transportation resources can result in less duplication, less inefficiency and fewer gaps in service. It also breaks down barriers between client groups, thus providing a wider range of vehicles to meet users' needs in a more flexible and cost-effective manner.


For example, in some communities, rather than sitting idle, school buses are being used between morning and afternoon student runs to transport seniors and persons with disabilities. In a remote northern Ontario community, the Board of Education has contracted with the local Meals on Wheels to transport disabled students to school in its van. This provides an economical solution for the school board and helps to offset the cost of the van for Meals on Wheels.



Greater Sedona Transportation

The Sedona/Red Rock region in northern Arizona is a popular destination for tourists who are attracted by its spectacular Red Rock cliffs, expanses of forest and grasslands, rushing rivers and striking canyons. The area has approximately 14,000 residents and 4-5 million annual visitors driving 2.5 million cars through Oak Creek Canyon each year, with a doubling of visitors projected in the next two decades. Currently, the only viable way for most people to get to or around Sedona is by car.


The City of Sedona, Yavapai and Coconino Counties, the Coconino National Forest, the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG) and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), with technical assistance from the Community Transportation Association of America, are exploring innovative and cost effective ways to manage transportation to enhance the region’s livability and preserve its cultural and environmental assets. These efforts will control automobile access to scenic sights and areas within the Coconino National Forest, promoting a balanced choice of transportation options for residents and visitors, including limited highway and parking facilities, establishing a convenient public shuttle system, and pedestrian improvements.


The transportation plan is designed to increase travel choices and enhance visitors’ experience. Most in town restaurants and businesses will be accessible by shuttle. Hotels and resorts would serve as staging areas for trips to scenic sights or up the Canyon. A network of gateway centers coupled with a downtown transit hub will serve as collection points for people heading for recreation spots, state parks, trailheads, shopping excursions and other outings. Visitors who arrive by air or shuttle bus would be able to get around without the need of rental cars. Many visitors to Red Rock country pass through Sedona on chartered tours. While these "package" visitors currently depend upon tour operators or jeep companies to get around locally, the availability of a low-cost public shuttle, with proper marketing and promotion, is expected to entice many independent travelers to remain a day or two in the area. The scenic shuttle system will provide the transportation link between many major visitor destinations in the area. The following actions are being planned or implemented to support this plan:


·         Public Shuttle System: The City will take the lead role in jointly developing a community shuttle system—the centerpiece of the strategy for increasing mobility and access to the region’s most important attractions while reducing reliance on the automobile. The shuttle system will be designed to provide frequent, convenient and accessible service within Sedona, between the Village of Oak Creek and the Uptown area, including key attractions within the Red Rock area, and throughout Oak Creek Canyon.


·         Shuttle Stops: In-town shuttle stops will be designated adjacent to core commercial areas, major motels and resorts, municipal offices, medical offices and parks. Passenger shelters, benches and other "street furniture" would be constructed, adding to the transit system’s convenience and attractiveness to both passengers and non-passengers.


·         Street Configuration: The City will enhance auto, bicycle and pedestrian access to the shuttle system. The street system needs to be interconnected and provide alternate routes between core business areas and surrounding neighborhoods without requiring use of major highways.


·         Bicycle/Pedestrian Connections: Travel by foot or bicycle will need to be facilitated for shuttle passengers at either end of their trip. A key element of a successful transit system will be a convenient network of sidewalks, jogging paths and bike pathways serving shuttle stops.


·         Transit-Oriented Development: Transit-oriented development and transit-friendly land use would be promoted through a mix of housing densities and higher intensity development in locations easily served by transit.


·         Parking: City officials will need to manage parking to reduce congestion and promote transit ridership, including limiting right-of-way parking, create a central parking district, and encourage visitors’ to leave their cars at park-and-ride lots and resorts. Forest officials are prepared to limit parking in a number of scenic areas within the national forest. Limits would be placed on roadside parking along two highways that run through Oak Creek Canyon and the Red Rocks scenic area. These limits will serve as an incentive for the shuttle system and will help address safety, water quality and other resource issues. A coordinated plan for shuttle and controlled parking will be developed to ensure sufficient access to trailheads, residences, businesses, and developed recreation areas, with the intent of providing strong incentives for forest visitors to leave their private vehicles behind and use a shuttle service.


·         Permit System: The Forest Service is considering implementing a “parking pass” or “passport” for drivers accessing the public lands. Studies indicate that this system could provide significant revenue to support the infrastructure of a shuttle system. At the same time, these methods can be used to encourage visitors to use a shuttle system rather than paying for parking. Subsidized seasonal or annual passes would be available for Sedona area residents.


·         Enhancements: Shuttle stops will be designated at one mile or less intervals within the Canyon and at vista points elsewhere. Appropriate vehicle turnouts, parking and loading areas, passenger shelters and information kiosks at each stop will also have to be constructed.


·         Pathways: It is also contemplated that shuttle stops would be connected by pathways, allowing people the convenience of taking the shuttle, bicycling or walking to various destinations along the way within the recreation areas.


·         Gateways: The partnership between jurisdictions will also allow the development of a network of “gateway” centers and “orientation” sites to serve visitors entering the area. At least four gateways are contemplated. Each would serve as possible "orientation sites", and serve as visitor information centers, day and long-term parking facilities, and transfer points to access the shuttle.



Rural Transit Initiative

The Northern Echo, May 16, 2002

A British initiative will bring new public transport schemes to rural areas of County Durham. The County Durham Response Project secured the funding through a Durham County Council bid to the Government’s Rural Bus Challenge programme.


Now the council is busy developing the different elements of the scheme, which will improve transport services in North-West Durham and Teesdale. Proposals include a new bus service between Teesdale and Darlington and a second service in Upper Teesdale, which would run at peak times and would also be available for community use.


There would also be a county-wide travel response centre, where journeys could be booked and operators could co-ordinate their services. Councillor Bob Pendlebury, Durham County Council cabinet member for the environment, said: “This money will enable the council to work with various partners to develop flexible demand responsive services which will operate in conjunction with existing services. This means we will be able to meet the needs of a wider cross section of rural communities.”


“The travel demands of a modern society are varied and often complicated. Groups who will particularly benefit are young people, the elderly, parents with young children, people with disabilities and people who work shifts.”


The council has also been awarded money from the Countryside Agency to carry out a feasibility study for a rural car club in North West Durham.



Rural Public Transit Service Options In New Zealand (Cheyne and Imran 2010)

Research sponsored by the New Zealand Transport Agency gathered data to identify the scope for shared transport in non-metropolitan areas. It investigated the potential of demand response public transport to increase transport options for non-metropolitan residents, and help overcome transport disadvantage for non-drivers. It analyzed rural community demographics to estimate demand for public transit travel, particularly latent demand by mobility disadvantaged people (e.g., the elderly, women, youth and the disabled). This research highlighted opportunities for increased use of shared transport between small towns and provincial cities by creating appropriate demand response services. It concludes that there is significant potential for shared transport to expand the transport choices for people throughout non-metropolitan New Zealand, and for this new mode to enhance land use transport integration.


Smart Growth Rural Community Transport Planning (

Manalapan Township in New Jersey uses smart growth principles in various rural conditions, including an undeveloped rural corridor that is rapidly facing development, a congested commuter route lined by commercial development serving as a significant transit node, and a community center that is currently undeveloped that could link several significant community resources and facilities including a train station. Paramount to each of the focus areas is the need to provide a network system to manage the burden otherwise imposed on the state highway system.


Key smart growth principles include:



Rural Community Smart Growth (

The report, Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities, by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA 2010) identifies smart growth strategies suitable for rural areas. These strategies are based around three central goals: 1) support the rural landscape by creating an economic climate that enhances the viability of working lands and conserves natural lands; 2) help existing places to thrive by taking care of assets and investments such as downtowns, Main Streets, existing infrastructure, and places that the community values; and 3) create great new places by building vibrant, enduring neighborhoods and communities that people, especially young people, don’t want to leave. 



Rural Smart Growth Travel Impacts

The report, Close to Home: A Handbook for Transportation-Efficient Growth in Small Communities and Rural Areas (Morton, Huegy, and Poros 2014), analyzes how rural community residential and employment development patterns affects residents’ motor vehicle travel. The results indicate that per capita vehicle travel is minimized if new jobs and households are concentrated in areas that already have existing development, good access to the region’s commercial developments, and a mix of jobs and households, and that siting new jobs and new households together in a small area that is relatively undeveloped and isolated can lead to a large increase in daily driving per person. The document includes visualizations of small community streetscapes showing ways in which noticeable levels of growth can be accommodated without losing small town character and feel.



Evaluating Intercity Bus Service (WTI 2011)

The Montana Intercity Bus Service Study developed a framework for evaluating the quality of rural intercity bus service and the degree that current services satisfy demands. Intercity bus riders and the general public were surveyed concerning their use of intercity bus services and the attitudes toward the services. The study also examined the connectivity of current intercity bus services with local public transport providers and with other transportation modes. The results were used to help evaluate intercity bus services in Montana and to provide a methodology that can be used to determine whether intercity bus service needs are being adequately met. The methodology consists of an annual process to support existing intercity bus services and a triennial process to determine if new services are needed.



Village Transport Management (Mitchell and Hamilton-Baillie 2011)

The report, Traffic in Villages – Safety and Civility for Rural Roads: A Toolkit for Communities, describes ways to implement the Rural Roads Protocol, a set of principles for the management and maintenance of rural highways. These include:


The report includes checklists of design strategies, and case studies of various British villages that have implemented streetscaping and traffic management programs. It is one of a series of documents which provide guidance for better addressing urban and rural traffic problems.



Wyoming Intercity Bus Service Study (Chaudhari, Kack and Vasquez 2016)

The Wyoming Intercity Bus Service Study provides the Wyoming Department of Transportation with an assessment of intercity bus services within the state, and provide a methodology for evaluating whether needs are being adequately met, and, if not, identify potential new routes/services and how to allocate funding for new services. To achieve this goal, the research team conducted surveys of peer states, intercity bus users, and providers of local public transportation and other modes. Thy also performed network connectivity analysis. The results were used to define “meaningful connections” for intercity bus services. The results are used to support intercity bus service evaluation and planning.



Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities (USEPA 2015)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities developed a smart growth self-assessment tool to help rural local governments evaluate how well their policies and regulations support the type of development they want, and identify strategies for improvement. It focuses on rural areas’ unique needs and abilities. It considers the following issues:

• Revitalize village and town centers.

• Strengthen the local economy.

• Engage and connect community members.

• Improve health and promote active living.

• Protect natural habitats and ecosystems.

• Support productive agriculture for a variety of markets.

• Meet housing needs for different ages and incomes.

• Preserve historic and cultural resources.

• Provide transportation choices.

• Invest in efficient public infrastructure systems and operations.

• Use energy efficiently and provide renewable energy.


Each section includes a series of questions about the community’s policies, codes, and strategies that might help the community achieve its long-term objectives. Following the questions are strategies, grouped according to whether they apply to larger towns or more rural areas, which support the overall goal. The tool also helps users prioritize strategies to pursue. It includes links to case studies, sample code language, and other resources.



Rural Transit Travel Evaluation (Godavarthy, Mattson and Ndembe 2014)

Transit systems in rural and small urban areas are often viewed as valuable community assets due to the increased mobility they provide to those without other means of travel. The value of those services, however, has been largely unmeasured, and there are often impacts that go unidentified. Benefits to the public transit user include lower-cost trips, new trips that are made, and relocation avoidance. The alternative means of travel for transit users, which may involve purchasing an automobile or paying for a taxi ride, are often more expensive. Many studies have documented the benefits of urban transit systems by benefit-cost analysis. However, there are fewer studies examining the benefits of transit in small urban and rural transit systems where there is a great need for transit among the public and especially among transportation-disadvantaged individuals.


This study focuses on the qualitative and quantitative benefits of small urban and rural public transit systems in the United States. First, a thorough review of previous literature is presented. Then, a framework is developed which focuses on three main areas of transit benefits most relevant to rural and small urban areas: transportation cost savings, low-cost mobility benefits, and economic development impacts. Data for small urban and rural transits systems from the National Transit Database (NTD) and Rural NTD were used for calibrating the transit benefits and costs. The benefits, costs, and benefit-cost analysis results of small urban and rural transit for this study are presented nationally, regionally (FTA regions), and locally (statewide). Sensitivity analysis was also conducted to illustrate how the national transit benefits and benefit-cost ratios vary with changes in key variables. With estimated benefit-cost ratios greater than 1, the results show that the benefits provided by transit services in rural and small urban areas are greater than the costs of providing those services.


Rural Senior Travel Demands (Dieber, et al.)

The study, Planning Transportation to Meet the Needs of an Aging Illinois: An Assessment, analyzed demographic trends in the state of Illinois. Between 2010 to 2030 Illinois is projected to have a 76% gain in 65 to 74 year old residents, with the greatest increases in rural areas. The analysis indicates that older adults in rural communities are likely to be more isolated than those in populated areas and may face greater challenges getting medical care and other services. The project team concluded that heightened coordination of Human Services Transportation Planning (HSTP) initiatives within Illinois and on the federal level would be required to meet the demands of the state’s aging population. The study developed specific recommendations for accomplishing this.


Travel Washington (Lynott 2014)

Travel Washington connects rural communities to major transportation hubs and urban centers through an intercity bus service operated by local private carriers under contract to Washington State Department of Transportation. Grape Line service between Pasco and Walla Walla began in 2007. By 2010, three additional feeder bus lines were operating. A fifth line has been planned and could begin service if funding is identified. In total, the bus companies operating those current four lines provided more than 50,000 passenger trips in 2012. More than two dozen towns in the state have seen their intercity bus service restored along 400 route miles. The bus companies provide one, two, or three daily roundtrips.


This and other rural bus services are supported by a US Federal Transit Administration program which allows transit funding to help finance intercity coach bus services. This results in rural intercity bus routes that private operators would otherwise discontinue.



Mobility to Work Shuttle Services (

Several federal and state programs provide special Shuttle Services between lower-income neighborhoods and employment centers. The U.S. federal government offers grants to help establish and support such services.



References and Resources for More Information


Alta Planning, et al. (2016), Small Town and Rural Multimodal Networks, Office of Planning, Environment, and Federal Highway Administration (; at


BTS (2011), The U.S. Rural Population and Scheduled Intercity Transportation in 2010: A Five-Year Decline in Transportation Access, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (; at


Jon E. Burkhardt, Charles A. Nelson, Gail Murray and David Koffman (2004), Toolkit for Rural Community Coordinated Transportation Services, TCRP Report 101, TRB (; at


CALTRANS (2014), Main Street, California: A Guide for Improving Community and Transportation Vitality, California Department of Transportation (; at


Jaydeep Chaudhari, David Kack and Alexander Vasquez (2016), Wyoming Intercity Bus Service Study, FTA-WY-1601-LGC-F, Western Transportation Institute-Montana State University (; at


C. Cheyne and M. Imran (2010), Attitudes And Behaviour In Relation To Public Transport In New Zealand’s Non-Metropolitan Regions, Research Report 419, New Zealand Transport Agency (; at


CTA (2009), Profiles of Innovative Rural Vanpool Programs, Community Transportation Association (; at  


DEA & Associates (1999), Main Street…When a Highway Runs Through It, Transportation and Growth Management Program, Oregon DOT and Dept. of Environmental Quality (; at


William Dieber, et al. (2014), Planning Transportation to Meet the Needs of an Aging Illinois: An Assessment, Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, University of Illinois at Chicago; at


David W. Eby, et al. (2012), Recommendations For Meeting the Mobility Needs of Older Adults in Rural Michigan, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (; at


Suzie Edrington, Jonathan Paul Brooks and L. Cherrington (2013), Rural Transit Livability Performance Measures, Federal Transit Administration; summary at


Elizabeth Ellis and Brian McCollom (2014), Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance, TCRP Report 136, Transportation Research Board (; at


EST Forum (2017), Vientiane Declaration on Sustainable Rural Transport Towards Achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Environmentally Sustainable Transportation (EST) Forum In Asia (; at


Gerard Fitzgerald (2012), The Social Impacts of Poor Access to Transport in Rural New Zealand,  Research Report 484, NZ Transport Agency (; at


Stephen Fuller, John Robinson, Francisco Fraire, and Sharada Vadali (2011), Improving Intermodal Connectivity in Rural Areas to Enhance Transportation Efficiency: A Case Study, University Transportation Center for Mobility (; at


Ranjit Godavarthy, Jeremy Mattson and Elvis Ndembe (2014), Cost-Benefit Analysis of Rural and Small Urban Transit, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, North Dakota State University, for the U.S. Department of Transportation (; at


Ranjit Godavarthy and Jeremy Mattson (2016), Exploring Transit’s Contribution to Livability in Rural Communities: Case Study of Valley City, ND, and Dickinson, ND, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, North Dakota State University, for the U.S. Department of Transportation (; at


Shauna L. Hallmark, Skylar Knickerbocker, and Neal Hawkins (2013), Evaluation of Low Cost Traffic Calming for Rural Communities, Institute for Transportation, Iowa State University (; at


Kenneth I. Hosen and S. Bennett Powell (2014), Innovative Rural Transit Services: A Synthesis of Transit Practice, TCRP Synthesis 94, Transportation Research Board (; at


JPT (2012), “Rural and Intercity Bus Special Issue” Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 15, No. 3; at


KFH Group (2014), Effective Approaches to Meeting Rural Intercity Bus Transportation Needs, TCRP Report 79, Transportation Research Board (; at


J. Liddle, Gerard McElwee and John Disney (2012), “Rural Transport and Social Inclusion: The DalesBus Initiative,” Local Economy, March, 27/2, pp. 3-18; at


Todd Litman (1999), First Resort; Resort Community Transportation Management, VTPI (; at


Todd Litman (2009), Rethinking Malahat Solutions: Or, Why Spend A Billion Dollars If A Five-Million Dollar Solution Is Better Overall? Victoria Transport Policy Institute (; at


Todd Litman (2017), Public Transportation’s Impact on Rural and Small Towns: A Vital Mobility Link, American Public Transportation Association (; at


Todd Litman (2018), Rural Multimodal Planning: Why and How to Improve Travel Options in Small Towns and Rural Communities, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (; at


Jana Lynott (2014), Reconnecting Small-Town America by Bus: New Federal Transit Rules Spur Investment, AARP Public Policy Institute, American Association of Retired Persons (; at


Jeremy Mattson (2013), Rural Transit Fact Book 2013, Small Urban and Rural Transit Center (, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute; at


Sue Mitchell and Ben Hamilton-Baillie (2011), Traffic in Villages – Safety and Civility for Rural Roads: A Toolkit for Communities, Dorset AONB Partnership (; at


Brian J. Morton, Joseph Huegy, and John Poros (2014), Close to Home: A Handbook for Transportation-Efficient Growth in Small Communities and Rural Areas, Web-Only Document 211, National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP); at


Noxon (2009), Improving Travel Options in Small & Rural Communities, Transport Canada (; at


ODOT (2013), Oregon DOT Highway Design Manual; Rural Highway Design, Oregon Department of Transportation (; at


PATH (Planning for Active Transportation and Health) (, describes practical measures to increase transportation efficiency, equity and health in rural regions, sponsored by the Natural Resources Services of the Redwood Community Action Agency.


PATH (2006), The PATH Guide: Planning Ideas, Tools And Examples To Achieve Transportation Access And Equity In Rural California, Prepared by Natural Resources Services, A Division of Redwood Community Action Agency, Eureka, California, (, with funding from The Caltrans Environmental Justice Program; at


Reconnecting America (2012), Putting Transit to Work in Main Street America: How Smaller Cities and Rural Places Are Using Transit and Mobility Investments to Strengthen Their Economies and Communities, Reconnecting America ( and Community Transportation Association (; at


RTTC (2012), Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers: Walking and Bicycling in Small Towns and Rural America” Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (; at

Michael Ronkin (2008), Twenty-Two Reasons for Paved Highway Shoulders, Oregon DOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program (; at


Rural Assistance Center Transportation Topic Page ( provides practical information on ways to improve transport options in rural communities.


Rural Transport Knowledge Base (\Intro.htm) is a set of reference and training material of the latest thinking and practice in the field of rural transport.


Rural Transportation Planning Clearinghouse ( serves as the national professional association for rural transportation planning professionals, practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders. It is sponsored by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) and the NADO Research Foundation.


Rural Transportation Toolkit ( provides information on developing, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining rural transportation programs. 


Rural and Small Community Transportation Planning (, Federal Highway Administration (


Small Urban & Rural Transit Center ( at North Dakota State University’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute works to increase the mobility of small urban and rural residents through improved public transportation. 


Paul Starkey and John Hine (2014), Poverty and Sustainable Transport: How Transport Affects Poor People, with Policy Implications For Poverty Reduction—A Literature Review, Sustainable Low Carbon Transportation (; at


Josh Stephens (2013), “Ahead of the Curb: Comfortable, Creatively Branded and Competitively Priced, New Wave of Curbside Carriers Reinvigorate Intercity Bus Travel,” InTransition, Fall, at


SustraMM (2012), Guidelines and Recommendations On Mobility Management In Rural Areas And Small Cities: Experiences From The SustraMM EU Project, SustraMM (,54).


TGM (2013), Transit in Small Cities: A Primer for Planning, Siting and Designing Transit Facilities in Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation and Growth Management (; at


Kalena Thomhave (2017), Revving Up Rural Public Transit. Small Communities Create Unique Transportation Programs that Reduce Reliance .n Cars And Improve Residents’ Local Connections, American Prospect (; at


Transport and Rural Infrastructure Learning and Sharing Partnership (, sponsored by the World Bank and UK Department for International Development, seeks to improve access to relevant knowledge for stakeholders in the transport and rural infrastructure sector in developing countries.


TRB (2012), Rural Public Transportation Strategies for Responding to the Livable and Sustainable Communities, Digest 375 National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), TRB (; at


TRB (2013), Methods for Forecasting Demand and Quantifying Need for Rural Passenger Transportation: Final Workbook, Report 161, Transportation Research Cooperative Program, TRB (; at


TRB (2017), Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, TRB (; at


TRIPTAC (, the Transit in Parks Technical Assistance Center, offers specialized resources and assistance for alternative transportation planning, including walking, cycling and various forms of public transportation. TRIPTAC serves U.S. Federal Land Management Agencies (FLMAs) and their partners.


Hannah Twaddell and Dan Emerine (2007), Best Practices to Enhance the Transportation-Land Use Connection in the Rural United States, NCHRP 582, Transportation Research Board (; at


USEPA (2015), Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (; at


Nagendra R. Velaga, John D. Nelson, Steve D. Wright, John H. Farrington (2012), “The Potential Role of Flexible Transport Services in Enhancing Rural Public Transport Provision,” Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 111-131; at


Louise J. Weir and Fintan McCabe (2012), Towards A Sustainable Rural Transport Policy: Review, Irish Rural Link (; at


WTI (2011), Montana Intercity Bus Service Study, Western Transportation Institute (; at

This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.




Encyclopedia Homepage

Send Comments


Victoria Transport Policy Institute

1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, CANADA

Phone 250-360-1560

“Efficiency - Equity - Clarity”