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How Transit Use Could Rise in Rural America

Who’s left behind in shrinking towns? For better or for worse, a constituency for transit.
Small towns, small buses, but growing ridership.
Small towns, small buses, but growing ridership. Ross D. Franklin/AP

For rural Americans who don’t have access to cars, basics like grocery shopping and doctor’s appointments can turn into an arduous struggle. With few transit options at low densities, the expense and hassle of finding an alternative ride can mean important appointments simply get skipped.

That’s a problem. Rural communities increasingly reflect a group of people who don’t drive—they’re older, less mobile, and poorer. That’s the gist of a new report by the American Public Transportation Association. While transit systems in large urban centers rightly draw most attention from advocates, ignoring the growing demand for service in far-flung towns risks shutting out some of the neediest would-be riders.