Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rural Transit Gets Attention

The Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), along with YouthBuild USA, Good News Mountaineer Garage (a car ownership program for low-income residents of West Virginia), Redwood Coast Rural Action (a regional network of rural leaders based in northern California), and Sustainable Northwest (a Western U.S. community-oriented, conservation-based non-profit group), is a member of the National Rural Assembly Rural Transportation Policy Group. The group released a statement declaring, "Highway-building alone is not enough to address the economic and mobility needs of small-town and rural America."

The group's position on transportation reauthorization legislation calls for the federal government to be a catalyst to "modernize, strengthen and integrate the transportation systems that connect rural people and places to each other and urban commercial centers, while protecting the landscapes, habitat and livelihoods of rural communities." The National Rural Assembly is also asking for investments in broadband technology.

Billy Altom, executive director of APRIL, stated that "rural residents, especially those with disabilities, need and deserve affordable and accessible transportation. This includes public transit, regional, and inter-modal systems that are in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act."

Stories of Rural Livability

The Transportation for America blog series on rural livability is now complete, with 12 examples of livability initiatives across the spectrum of small towns, reservations and small cities. A few of the examples are from the archives of technical assistance projects of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). Some are examples of EPA smart growth projects.

The series shows some examples of transit's role in creating livable communities. Others showcase places that have embarked on downtown and pedestrian-friendly projects. The full series is available at

One State Goes Totally Smart Growth

The newsletter of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), announced that New York State recently passed a smart growth bill that is intended to do away with unnecessary sprawl. Enacted as an environmental conservation measure, the law sets forth nine smart growth criteria, including protection of rural agricultural land and improvement of public transportation choices to move beyond automobile dependency.

Though there are no exceptions to the law listed, it only applies to state agencies. It requires state infrastructure agencies to create smart growth advisory committees and mandates state committees to "solicit input from and consult with various representatives of affected communities and organizations within those communities, and shall give consideration to the local and environmental interests affected by the activities of the agency or projects planned, approved or financed through such agency."

I'm a New Yorker; I'm skeptical, watching and waiting to see how this broad legislative action plays out in the real world. There are no enforcement teeth or specific mandates.

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