Toward improving rural mobility in Rural America

  • Date: 05/24/2024

For the 15% of the U.S. population living in rural areas, simple but essential trips like commuting to work, grocery shopping, or accessing healthcare have become more challenging and expensive in the past few decades. Hindered by sparse infrastructure and limited public transit options, rural populations rely heavily on single-purpose trips in personal vehicles, straining both wallets and energy reserves. Planned and unplanned traffic incidents also impact these trips substantially; due to limited route choices and possible destinations, travel time can increase exponentially or even make the trip unattainable completely.

Because these factors make travel more physically and financially burdensome, fundamental resources and services, like jobs, food, and healthcare, are inherently more inaccessible to rural populations. The 39,000 residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Greene County know these struggles well; the region is a microcosm of the mobility plight facing rural America and an ideal test site for Carnegie Mellon’s rural access mobility platform (RAMP)Opens in new window initiative.

In 2020, the United States Department of Energy funded a team of researchersOpens in new window led by Sean Qian and the Mobility Data Analytics CenterOpens in new window at Carnegie Mellon University studying ways to enhance mobility in rural areas. They developed RAMP, an on-demand service based on the population's most desired destinations, and it takes real-time trip requests throughout the County.”

Available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., RAMP operates three vehicles: one on a regular fixed route between two popular destinations and two offering on-demand services throughout the county, with extended service to Washington, PA and Morgantown, WV. Because some Greene County residents don’t have internet or cell phone service, users can request services through wi-fi on a computer or a landline and get matched with an on-demand driver to take them to their destination.

These day-to-day operations are managed by nonprofit collaborator BlueprintsOpens in new window, in addition to the coordination of local stakeholders with Waynesburg University.

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