Transit deserts in urbanized areas : challenges and opportunities in Texas
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This report focuses on urbanized areas that have limited or no transit service in the Austin metropolitan urbanized area. Commonly called urban gaps or more broadly, transit deserts, these areas are typically not serviced by the rural or urban transit provider. The jurisdictional entity such as a municipality or county must coordinate with the rural or urban transit provider to service the urbanized areas. This process can occur in a number of different ways, which this report focuses on. Urbanized areas are classified during each decennial census. As such, growing communities may become urbanized or become classified as part of a nearby urbanized region. This seemingly minor designation has a major impact in terms of transit funding. Communities that acquire an urban area designation can no longer be serviced by the rural transit provider using the Federal Transit Administration’s 5311 Rural Area Formula Grants. Other funding sources, such as FTA Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Funding can be used but require a matching contribution. This creates a dilemma for newly urbanized communities both in terms of funding and transit service levels. One example includes Georgetown, TX, which became part of the Austin metropolitan urbanized area in the 2010 census. Communities like Georgetown have three main avenues of obtaining public transit. If applicable, the community can join the nearest metropolitan transit agency, create a regional transit district or limited eligibility transit agency or contract with a transit provider for local service. Many important financial and social challenges exist for communities experiencing a lack of transit access. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and transit dependent residents are further affected by the sudden loss of transit service. This report will look at some of the ways communities are addressing these issues and what progress has been made in the five years (2010-2015) that newly urbanized communities have been affected. There are different solutions and strategies to address these changes, and with proper planning and coordination, these transitions can yield smooth and effective results into the next phase of urban transit service.