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GENERAL OVERVIEW INTRODUCTION tems adapted to the new paradigms. Each case study will be examined with the intent There is a natural aversion to change of serving as a guide for other systems to among most organizations and this is no adapt to the 21st century and its new para- less so among transit systems. For exam- digms. It is hoped that these case studies ple, TCRP Report 53 states that "Little has will inspire managers who read this docu- changed fundamentally in how transit ser- ment and then spur them to action. vices have been designed and provided in the last half of the 20th century" and that The New Paradigms-- "The world in which transportation needs A New Way of Thinking arise and are accommodated has changed dramatically." These two statements de- The new paradigms constitute a different scribe transit organizations as standing still way of thinking about the business of rural while the world around them changes. transit. "These paradigms suggest that what While rural transit has only been in opera- rural operators really need to change is tion for the past 20 years, it too is at risk of how they view themselves and the strate- becoming outdated. gies they employ to provide ser- vices" (CUTR, 2003). The underlying Rural areas have been transformed in many theme is that adapting to the new para- ways. The evidence of a changing rural digms requires thinking differently about world includes a number of demographic, how they operate service. Each of the sys- land use, economic, communications, and tems reviewed in the case studies thinks attitudinal changes. For example, almost differently, as is demonstrated by the sys- 100% population growth on the urban tems' unusual approach to the provision of fringes of areas such as Northern Virginia service and their successful adaptation to and Austin, Texas, have transformed these change. The systems changed not because areas from rural places into large subur- they wanted to, but rather because they had ban sprawl communities with major em- to change in order to maintain their rele- ployment bases. Yet during the 10 years of vance in the community. Each changed in this phenomenal growth, federal transit reaction to new paradigms in the service funding for these areas did not change-- area (often demographics), in technology, the areas were still considered rural. and/or in funding. The societal changes have been rapid and New ways of providing transit are neces- dramatic, requiring the transit systems serv- sary as new commuter patterns develop in ing these areas to adapt to the new para- response to (1) businesses moving to the digms. How do the rural systems that serve urban fringe and (2) growth consequen- these communities adapt to meet the new tially pushing even farther into rural areas. paradigms? That is the primary question In the initial TCRP Project B-22 work, sev- that was examined in these case studies. eral new paradigms were identified for ru- ral transit. These paradigms were based, in Study Purpose part, on paradigms developed for urban ar- eas and reflect attributes of innovation at The purpose of this research is to identify rural and small urban areas. They include and examine four systems that have themes reflecting the community context as adapted to the new rural paradigms. This well as attributes of innovative transit or- research examines how and why these sys- ganizations. They were modified slightly 1
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GENERAL OVERVIEW for the case studies. The new paradigms cant expertise. This research will look at reflecting the changes faced by rural transit how one system, Capital Area Rural Trans- systems are as follows: portation System (CARTS), has success- fully adopted multiple technologies to 1. Serving as Community Agents of benefit both the system and its riders. Change As we will see in the case studies, pro- found changes to these communities, often demographically influenced, drove these transit systems to adapt to their new envi- ronments. TCRP Report 70 notes that the key to serving as community agents of change is to understand the changes in the community and to be able to change itself. TCRP Report 70 also notes that an essen- tial ingredient to change is active involve- ment in the communities being served. Representation and participation in com- 4. Acting as Entrepreneurs munity activities and organizations, look- ing for an opportunity to address a group, The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and being present and visible at community among some rural and small urban transit functions all help a transit system serve as systems. These systems operate as busi- a community agent of change. nesses even when they are a part of a gov- ernment. A number of rural operators have 2. Optimizing Rural Resources become much more businesslike. Instead of expecting government support, these en- To provide transportation in rural and tities seek to sell a variety of services to the small urban areas with modest resources, it private sector (as well as the public sector), is essential that transit organizations in order to bring in additional funding, thus squeeze the most out of every dollar. reducing dependency on a governmental Stretching dollars, sharing costs, and con- source of funds. tracting when feasible are all common ac- tivities. TCRP Report 70 highlights a sys- 5. Providing Effective Service tem that takes this paradigm much further than most, using some very innovative ap- Called "state-of-the-art service" in TCRP proaches to getting more vehicles into the Project B-22, this paradigm was renamed community, thus ensuring that residents in to get to the heart of the matter. Efficiency need get service--not always directly from has been described as doing things right, the transit system. while effectiveness constitutes doing the right things. Effective service can be ser- 3. Adopting Technology vice that attracts a healthy ridership, brings in significant revenue, or is seen as enhanc- Research has indicated that there have been ing the quality of life. In many communi- few successes in adapting intelligent trans- ties, the services of these transit systems portation systems (ITS) for rural areas due are sought after and supported by the busi- to high cost, relatively low benefits, and ness community. These are all examples of complexity. Adopting ITS requires signifi- effective service. Transit systems that pro- 2