SCC-CIVIC-PG Track B: Novel shared transportation services to improve rural-urban commutes

Project: Research project

Project Details


While dense urban regions serve as the core employment centers in the United States, a large fraction of the population still lives in rural/suburban communities that are characterized by large geographic areas and low population densities. This creates a spatial mismatch between where people live and work, which is exacerbated by low housing supplies and high housing prices in cities. Rural public or shared transportation services are not efficient for transit agencies to provide and maintain, as they generally carry fewer passengers per vehicle than urban services. Due to a geographically dispersed demand, such services also suffer from infrequency and long stop spacings. This forces commuters to rely on (primarily) single-occupant private automobiles. Such commute trips are expensive for low-income rural residents, are extremely damaging to the environment, disproportionately contribute to congestion, and negatively impact disadvantaged and/or vulnerable communities. The project aims to identify and pilot innovative shared transportation solutions that can enhance mobility and accessibility of rural-urban commuters. It will focus on commuters in Perry County, a suburban of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania region as a case study for this larger, problematic issue in the United States. The results can serve as a model for other rural communities that struggle with the commuter problem, helping transportation officials identify similar strategies that can be successful in their areas. The project will create knowledge on the feasibility requirements of different identified shared transportation options through surveys of rural commuters, employer interviews and existing data sources. It will also evaluate the effectiveness of the most viable solution for the study area via a pilot test. In the first step, the planning project will assess latent travel demand in rural areas and overall demand for shared mobility options, taking attitudes toward ride sharing into account. Multiple innovative and flexible shared transportation solutions for the rural-urban commute will then be designed and explored, combining traditional transit system structures (e.g., mobility hub, trunk with branches or commute clusters) with ride-matching services and real-time information systems to specifically overcome the geographic challenges of serving rural communities. Comparing different mobility strategies will advance the understanding of the costs and benefits of each strategy for rural-urban commutes. The implementation of such solutions can provide significant benefits to the society by improving commute options for disadvantaged populations and enabling them to join the labor force more easily, and by lowering congestion and emissions through the reduction of single-occupant vehicles. This project is part of the CIVIC Innovation Challenge which is a collaboration of NSF, the Department of Energy's Vehicle Technology Office, and the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate and Federal Emergency Management Agency.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date10/1/223/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $49,999.00


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