How a mobility platform could solve rural transportation challenges
Transportation challenges have long been a concern for the residents of rural communities. The lack of viable transportation options in many rural and remote rural areas makes it difficult for many to access healthcare, social services, leisure activities, education, and employment opportunities. This is a persistent challenge, given the typical aging demographic of rural communities. The need for cost-effective, reliable, and accessible transportation services will only increase in the future.
Rural transportation has been an ongoing issue for municipalities, and the solution will require many organizations to coordinate their efforts in order to build a sustainable solution. Many rural communities put tremendous effort into applying for grants or fundraising to purchase items such as community buses. Regrettably in many instances these vehicles end up sitting idle due to a lack of appropriate planning and coordination. In other cases, a local entrepreneur will venture out to provide a transportation service to the community but unfortunately, due to a variety of factors, this endeavor often proves to be unsustainable.
In most cases it takes time to build the appropriate levels of demand and unless there is sound financial backing, smaller operators simply do not have the resources to sustain a service with very few users. There is an opportunity here to create a platform that connects all these underused or unsustainable assets to create a long-term, viable transportation network.
The concept of a “hub and spoke” network with a central reservation website and app is an example of this. The idea is to coordinate existing transportation options that would serve not only their community but possibly also multiple neighbouring communities. These communities would be the “spokes” and would need to be geographically located within a reasonable distance and connect via a mainline service to the larger centre – the “hub.” This system not only alleviates the need for every community to purchase a bus or have a local company provide it, but also assists in creating a larger demand pool of potential travelers, thus creating the opportunity for a much more sustainable transportation system for the rural communities.
With the technology available today, we can make these connections virtual and seamless. Existing service providers – whether community bus or private company – would be able to load their local schedules into the main system. From this, you would be able to create seamless travel connections similar to what you would experience with local transit systems.
What does this look like? Well, from the consumer side, this would be someone accessing a website, an app or a call centre (those who don’t have access to a computer or other device would be provided a central location where travel can be booked). From a service-provider perspective, the inclusion of larger transit systems would be critical to the success of the network overall as it would give rural travelers an easy solution to coordinate their last mile once they reach the “hub”.
The implementation of a hub and spoke network is seemingly the most idealistic next step for transportation planning in rural communities. It will require the coordination of resources, the reallocation of funding, and the use of technology that is available to us. This shift in the way we look at connecting communities is imperative if we want to remain progressive in the transportation industry.