Shared-Use Mobility Services Can Improve Access and Reduce Costs in Rural Disadvantaged Communities

Low-income rural residents, especially those who do not own a car, have limited transportation options for accessing jobs, health care, education, healthy food, and other basic services. Rural transit service is often expensive, infrequent, and hard to access because of long travel distances and low development densities. Transit providers face very high operating costs of fixed-route and dial-a-ride transit services because of low farebox recovery rates. 

Shared-use mobility services such as ridehailing and carsharing largely serve major metropolitan areas. However, rural governments are beginning to consider whether these types of services may be able to augment existing transit services while providing cost-effective transportation access to rural residents. 

This policy brief summarizes findings from a UC Davis study where researchers compared the cost-effectiveness of existing inter-city transit service in rural disadvantaged communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley to hypothetical ridesharing and carsharing services. The researchers also reviewed existing shared-use mobility pilots and consulted with experts in shared mobility and local transportation planning to develop concepts for future shared mobility pilot programs in the San Joaquin Valley.