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Today's Challenges and Responses in Rural Transit


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During the 2016 National Regional Transportation Conference, Chris Zeilinger, Community Transportation Association of America, gave this presentation on making today's transit service relevant to communities and making the case for transit.

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Today's Challenges and Responses in Rural Transit

  1. 1. TODAY’S CHALLENGES & RESPONSES IN RURAL TRANSIT National Regional Transportation Conference Chattanooga, Tennessee Monday June 13, 2016 Chris Zeilinger Assistant Director Community Transportation Association of America Washington DC
  2. 2. • Some form of transit is present in more areas of rural America than ever before. • Federal funding for rural transit operations has not grown appreciably in years • Federal funding for rural transit capital is just recovering from an all-time low • Travel patterns and transit demand in rural America are changing • Rural America itself is changing The Current Reality
  3. 3. Existentialism “Existence precedes and rules essence.” (Sartre) In many places, we have many years’ existence of rural transit. Now we often face a need to find a new explanation, a new raison d’être, for having these systems. The Philosophical Foundation of Rural Transit Traditional arguments for rural transit: • Mobility for people with disabilities • Mobility for older people who no longer drive • Access to medical care for low-income families • Access to jobs and services for zero-car and below- poverty households But these traditional arguments face challenges….
  4. 4. Today, transit has to make economic sense. For example: • Improved economic productivity through reduced congestion • Improved productivity through increased labor force participation • The attraction of new or expanding businesses • Sustaining the local tax base • Preserving local quality of life • Improved health outcomes or social indicators The Challenge of Relevance
  5. 5. While launching a service can be challenging, continuing the service is an even greater challenge. • How will the ongoing costs of operating a transit service be met? • How will the costs of maintaining transit-related assets be addressed? • What happens when current assets reach the ends of their useful lives? • How will today’s transit service adapt to upcoming changes in the community, such as changing travel patterns, changing regional economy, changes to the regional infrastructure, or changing demographics? The Challenge of Sustainability
  6. 6. The Challenge of Community Support How does your community express the value it holds for transit? • Sincere support by local politicians and other leaders • Awareness and support from the public in your community • Financial support: reliable allocations of local government revenues, dedicated local taxes, etc.
  7. 7. The Challenge of Measurable Results It’s important to measure ridership, performance statistics, etc., but what are the actual outcomes that arise from a transit service? For example….. • The use of transit to get to and from jobs (and what happens to these jobs in the absence of transit) • The value of goods and services purchased by transit users (looking at at-risk users, commuters, households able to downsize personal vehicle ownership) • Spending by individuals who would leave the community in the absence of transit • Improved health, education, or social service outcomes made possible through the availability of transit
  8. 8. A Quick Tour of Responses to Rural Transit Challenges • Delmarva Community Services, Cambridge MD • Northeast Iowa Community Action’s “EARL Public Transit,” Decorah IA • RYDE, Kearney NE • Lakes Region Explorer, Portland ME
  9. 9. How Will You Respond to Challenges? • Performance-based transportation plans • Planning and programming in specific funding streams (e.g., FTA Section 5310, Transportation Alternatives) • Inclusion of transportation in other planning activities (e.g., workforce development, aging services, housing & community development) • Stakeholder engagement
  10. 10. Chris Zeilinger Assistant Director Community Transportation Association of America 202-250-4108 Questions? Following Up?