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Rural Communities Need Better Transportation Policy

Rural Communities Need Better Transportation Policy

Full Title: Rural Communities Need Better Transportation Policy
Author(s): Alexander Laska, Rayla Bellis
Publisher(s): Third Way
Publication Date: September 13, 2021
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

Many federal policymakers mistakenly believe that living in a rural area inevitably means that every single person must drive long distances for every trip—and that the cost, time, inconvenience, and pollution from long trips behind the wheel are a non-negotiable part of rural life. That is out of touch with the reality in rural America, where more than 1 million households don’t even have access to a vehicle.

As the case studies in this report show, many towns in rural areas are demonstrating that it is possible to provide residents with a choice to drive less and enhance their quality of life, without losing their rural essence. These and other municipalities are reinvesting in their historic downtowns to attract economic activity, making it easier to live near work and shopping in the process. They are transforming main streets to make them vibrant, walkable, community centers. They are investing in specialized rural transit services to provide better access to work and services. They are improving broadband to allow residents to access some of those services without leaving the house and attract new businesses and workers.

However, many of these communities are swimming against the current of federal transportation policy that makes it hard to invest in safe infrastructure for getting around outside a car in town centers and provides insufficient funding for rural transit operations. Instead of prioritizing the repair of vital road or bridge connections, current federal transportation policy incentivizes new highway investments that draw development away from those historic downtown economic centers, undercutting local revitalization efforts.

Congress’s bipartisan infrastructure bill preserves many of these obstacles, but there are still plenty of opportunities to make it easier for rural communities to revitalize their downtowns and provide better transportation options, especially in how the Biden administration chooses to implement the bill moving forward. Federal decision-makers shouldn’t tune out for five years until the next big transportation bill once this bill is settled—they should work to make this transportation policy work better for rural communities.

All statements and/or propositions in discussion prompts are meant exclusively to stimulate discussion and do not represent the views of, its Partners, Topic Directors or Experts, nor of any individual or organization. Comments by and opinions of Expert participants are their own.

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