What Is Rural Transportation? Why Rural Matters.

“Rural” means different things to different people. To someone who lives in a big city, any town of 50,000 people or less would seem rural. But to someone who lives on a remote farm or in a very small town, a city of 50,000 might be a major destination for shopping, recreation or medical care.*

At WTI we have studied rural transportation issues for more than 15 years. In that time we have come to understand “rural” as a context within which to understand the common characteristics and challenges met by travelers moving within and through rural areas:

  • Long distance travel between towns and majority of trips over 15 miles in length
  • High percentage (80%) of travelers drive for recreational reasons or trip purpose
  • Two-lane highways where mobility can be easily disrupted by an accident or a slow-moving vehicle and where there are very few alternate routes
  • Animal –vehicle collisions are common and costly
  • Challenging driving conditions due to severe weather, steep mountain grades, narrow bridges, sharp curves, or wildlife near the roadway
  • A large percentage of vehicles are tractor-trailers
  • Gaps in wireless communication coverage

By understanding the nature of rural travel, WTI can develop integrated solutions that tackle fundamental issues and critical needs.

Rural Matters

Why do these issues matter? If you think that traveling on rural roads only affects a small number of Americans, think again. Our nation’s transportation network is an integrated system with each segment, rural and urban, necessary to the whole, and accompanied with its own issues and needs.

According to the Federal Highway Administration:

Rural America makes up more than 80% of the nation’s land
There are more than 3 million miles of rural roads and they carry 40% of all vehicle miles traveled.
90% of rural roads are one or two-lane
The fatality rate on rural roads is more than twice that of urban areas
Truck traffic on major trade corridors has increased by 80% in the last decade and is expected to increase 400% in the next decade

Most of us use rural roads at least some of the time, if not on a daily basis. It is in everyone’s best interest for our rural travel to be timely, efficient, and safe.

* For information about how the U.S. DOT defines “rural” for transportation purposes, go to: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning%20/processes/statewide/related/highway_functional_classifications/section06.cfm