Transportation and smart land use are key areas of focus for revitalization rural communities

  • Date: 08/03/2023

Rural areas represent 97% of America’s landmass while producing only 10% of the nation’s gross domestic product. Given the large swaths of land they comprise, sparking economic growth in rural regions begins with a focus on transportation and “thoughtful land development policies,” according to a new report from the advocacy organization Smart Growth America.

The research analyzes “the presumption that living in a rural area inevitably means being dependent on a personal vehicle and driving long distances to access essential services negates the identities, experiences, and needs of the people in these complex and diverse communities,” reads an explainer about the report “An Active Roadmap: Best Practices in Rural Mobility,” which was published last month. “The more than 1 million rural American households without cars face unique barriers as alternate modes are not always accessible or affordable.”

Robust roadway and transit networks are vital for the social and physical health of rural regions. Compared to older adults who have motor vehicles, for example, those who don’t or can’t drive make 15% fewer trips to the doctors office, nearly 60% less trips to shop or go out to eat and 65% fewer trips to see family or friends, according to studies cited in the report. And while people walk in rural areas just as frequently as their urban or suburban counterparts, rural roadways are much more dangerous.

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