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Equitable Access to Transportation Systems: Communities


A look at the types of communities affected by transportation inequity and the unique challenges they face.

Guidance Sources

National Guidance

Achieving Multimodal Networks: Applying Design Flexibility and Reducing Conflicts, Federal Highway Administration, August 2016.

Practitioners will find a wide range of design solutions to achieve multimodal transportation networks, including ideas for streets, intersections, shared use paths and other trails that serve both transportation and recreation purposes.



Creating Equitable, Healthy and Sustainable Communities: Strategies for Advancing Smart Growth, Environmental Justice and Equitable Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, February 2013.

Strategies and best practices are presented to help low-income, minority, tribal and overburdened areas build healthy, sustainable and inclusive communities.



State Guidance

Multiple States

The Path to Complete Streets in Underserved Communities: Lessons from U.S. Case Studies, National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology, October 2014.

Case studies of four communities—the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan; Decatur, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; and Portland, Oregon—provide lessons on developing and implementing effective, multimodal transportation plans and projects that serve all constituents.



Assessment of Mobility and Transit Access to Captive Riders in Suburban and Rural Areas, Tennessee Department of Transportation, March 2018.

In this study of mobility and transit access in urban and rural areas, researchers present modeling that transit agencies can use to predict the frequency of demand response transit trips and provide adequate services in rural areas.

National Guidance

Rural Transit Fact Book—2021, Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, May 2021.

Rural demographic and travel behavior information is supplemented with financial and operating statistics for agencies receiving Section 5311 funding. Data is presented on the national level and by state, Federal Transit Administration region, tribe and mode.


Intercity Bus Stop Analysis, Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University, March 2017.

Researchers analyze access to intercity bus services in rural and small urban communities. While the majority of intercity bus stops are located in rural areas, intercity services are not reaching most smaller rural communities.




“Balancing Equity and Cost in Rural Transportation Management With Multi-Objective Utility Analysis and Data Envelopment Analysis: A Case of Quinte West,Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, January 2017.

Insights and decision support tools for transportation planning, big data management and transportation service operations allow rural communities to deliver more sustainable transportation services.



TCRP Report 161: Methods for Forecasting Demand and Quantifying Need for Rural Passenger Transportation: Final Workbook, Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), 2013.

Step-by-step procedures enable agencies to quantify the needs and demands for passenger transportation. Researchers present an Excel spreadsheet that can be used to implement the procedures included in the workbook, and TCRP Web-Only Document 58, which documents the development of the estimation methods, findings from the analyses, and functions that can be used in estimating needs and demand.


State Guidance


“Rural Communities and Transportation Equity in California’s San Joaquin Valley,” Transportation Research Record, January 2014.

Investigators apply improved equity analysis methods that integrate social equity with regional planning to reduce disparities in eight disadvantaged rural communities.




Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Services in Greater Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Transportation, April 2020.

This study examines the benefits of investing in Minnesota’s rural and small urban transit services. The report includes a spreadsheet tool to calculate the benefits of transit services and case studies of transit agencies in Greater Minnesota.


North Dakota

Exploring Transit’s Contribution to Livability in Rural Communities: Case Study of Valley City, ND, and Dickinson, ND, Small Urban and Rural Livability Center, Montana State University, 2016.

Two case studies address influential factors on livability in rural communities. Although transit was not among the top factors, survey respondents expressed considerable support for providing transit services and funding these services through various sources.


Organizing Transit in Small Urban and Rural Communities, Small Urban and Rural Transit Center, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, July 2012.

Researchers investigate the most efficient regional organization of rural transit and the importance of government support based on increasing returns.




Providing Capacity in Rural Communities: Planning for Alternative Transportation, Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium, March 2011.

This study examined lessons learned and resources to enhance transportation planning and the planning workforce in rural multimodal projects.




A Framework to Determine Purpose and Need for Increased Travel Options in the Megaregion for Vulnerable NonUrban Communities, Center of Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions, University of Texas at Austin, March 2019.

Researchers develop a framework for quantifying rural transportation needs to help agencies compete for limited transportation funding.

National Guidance

Tribal Transit Study: Demographic Needs Indicators, Funding Needs and Livability, Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, April 2021.

This study identifies the demographic indicators of tribal communities that relate to transportation needs, evaluates existing tribal transit operations and funding, and examines the role of transit in livability and quality of life in tribal communities. Case studies of the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota and of the Makah Indian Reservation in Washington illustrate the beneficial role transit plays in the quality of life.

“Planning, Funding, Developing, Starting and Sustaining a Tribal Transit System,” National Rural Transit Assistance Program, 2020 Intertribal Transportation Association Conference, December 2020.

This presentation includes a discussion of a tribal transit framework and functional components along with examples of six tribal transit systems.

TCRP 154: Developing, Enhancing, and Sustaining Tribal Transit Services: A Guidebook, Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), 2012.

Key issues are identified related to transit service operation in tribal communities, including needs assessment, planning, implementation and funding. The report describes 15 tribal transit programs, including each program’s funding approach, challenges and innovative measures.


State Guidance


Fort Mojave Indian Reservation Transit Study: Recommendations, Arizona Department of Transportation, April 2014.

Recommendations and strategies are presented to increase mobility within the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation and improve regional interconnectivity to neighboring communities.

Access to transit studies and plans for other tribes in Arizona.



Montana Complete Streets Toolkit for Cities, Small Towns and Tribal Communities, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, 2012.

This toolkit includes innovative ways in which Montana’s cities, small towns and tribal communities are establishing safe and efficient facilities for bicycling, walking and transit.

Additional Resources

Transportation Equity Network, National Center for Transit Research, Center for Neighboring Technology.

This web page provides access to research, tools and solutions to create sustainable and equitable communities. Publications include:

National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP)

► Rural Integrated National Transit Database

Special populations: 

Transit Systems


Hualapai Transit
Peach Springs, Arizona



Redding Rancheria
Redding, California



Bois Fort Band of Chippewa/Big Woods Transit
Nett Lake, Minnesota



North Central Montana Transit
Havre, Montana


North Carolina

Cherokee Transit
Cherokee, North Carolina



Ute Tribe Public Transit
Fort Duchesne, Utah



Squaxin Island Tribe
South Puget Sound, Washington