Technology Support for the Arizona Rural Transportation Incubator
This report offers recommendations designed to support the Arizona Rural Transportation Incubator’s goals to provide technology that will help communities with their transportation programs.
In the last decade, information technology has taken center stage in the world of personal transportation. The rise of mobile device-based platforms to enable a new sharing economy for mobility has disrupted both the transit and personal car ownership sectors. While large urban areas have been the primary targets of this disruption, no corner of personal mobility has been left untouched. Rural areas are no exception.
In the same period, the impact of limited mobility options for people living in rural areas has gained greater attention. One cause is the increase in the number of older adults as a percentage of the population as whole — an increase that is happening at a faster pace in rural areas. With the convergence of these two highly impactful phenomena, one technological and the other demographic, it’s no surprise that many are looking to technology for solutions to the challenges of providing mobility options in areas where needs are in increasing. However, the variety, scale, and complexity of the challenges for rural mobility, combined with the immaturity, complexity, and urban focus of many of the proposed technologies means that solutions may not be as close at hand as first appears.
The question of how to best apply resources, technological or otherwise, to mobility in the rural context is not new. Partially in recognition of the need for transit options that respond to barriers encountered by older adults and people with disabilities, transit and social service providers developed the concept of mobility management, “a transportation strategy that focuses more on the customer and their needs, and the meeting of these needs through the coordinated use of a variety of providers.”1 This approach has taken hold in rural areas, where many agencies now fund mobility manager positions to develop and support customer-focused services.