Research Issue Area One:Rural Transportation Issue Definition and Refinement

Managers: Rhona Dallison (1) Lucy Gibson (2), Norman Marshall (2)

(1) RSG Inc. , (2) Smart Mobility Inc.


In the first research focus area, the grant will support activities which establish a "portrait" of rural transportation patterns.

NETI will conduct activities that create a portrait of rural transportation patterns in the Northeast. Applying the concepts of both "mobility" and "accessibility" to the Rural Northeast, the project will explore the issue of "rural isolation." On a selective basis, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools will be used to document actual conditions of accessibility to various essential activities (e.g. retail and medical services.)

The program will explore the extent to which concepts associated with "Smart Growth" are and are not applicable to settlement patterns in the Rural Northeast. The concept of encouraging growth to occur in existing traditional town centers will be explored for its implications for transportation patterns

The Research Approach

NETI will examine such questions in this area as:

  • "How serious a problem is rural isolation and perceptions of access (or lack thereof)?"
  • "How are we re-settling the rural areas?"
  • "How are demographics going to change the demands made on the transportation system?"
  • "Are there alternative settlement patterns, with alternative transportation implications?"
  • "Are our institutions prepared to deal with the impact of demographic change (aging population) and the reality of low density isolation?"

Technical Approach

NETI will research the current state-of-the-practice of the rural states of the Northeast to serve as the basis for better defining rural transportation issues.

NETI will undertake a major surveying effort to document the attitudes of those in the rural states of the Northeast (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Northern New York) concerning their perceptions of their own levels of mobility, and their perceptions of their isolation. These perceptions of mobility or isolation will be examined against many variables, including age and position in the life cycle. Respondents will have a chance to evaluate the quality of their access to medical services, and retail activities, among other destinations. Basic documentation of travel and modal patterns over the previous month will be documented, including the use of non-motorized transportation

Geographic information systems technology (GIS) will be applied to improve our understanding of the empirically derived descriptions of the location of our participants. The 3 Ds (density, diversity & design) are extensively used in researching the relationships between transportation and land use. Members of the NETI Research Team have written recent papers describing the integration of 3 D variables in transportation modeling. The NETI Research Team will use the same GIS procedures applied in this past work to develop 3 D metrics for each participant in our data base, based on their residential location. The metrics will be used in analyses of the attitude data. As a result, NETI will be able to link attitudes towards travel and amount of travel taken to both self reported residential conditions, and empirically observed land use conditions.

The "portrait" of rural travel patterns in the Northeast will be assembled from the original data collection efforts, as cross checked and integrated with three other sources:

  • 2000 Census data - includes data on work trip length and travel mode; survey respondents travel behavior could be compared to averages for their geographic areas.
  • National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) -could be used to base estimates of total household travel for the survey respondents based on the more limited set of travel behavior questions in the NETI survey
  • Local area travel surveys -these data could be used in the same way as described above for the NHTS data. If the individual survey responses have been previously geocoded, they also could be used in more detailed analyses. Special attention will be paid to the possible use of transportation data being collected by members of the NETI team in 23 separate towns in Vermont and New Hampshire.