Using data to build a sustainable and effective transportation network that benefits everyone
By Kelly Ast & Marrisa Scott, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency
Access to reliable transportation is a major concern for many communities in West Central Missouri, particularly those with limited resources. Missouri ranks 50th in the US in the amount of money available for transportation, and most funding goes towards roads and bridges, leaving little for community transportation needs. The largest issue people face in the region is distance to essential services. Many people live in areas that are too far from grocery stores, medical care, and places of employment to walk or bike, and only a few public transportation options are available.
To address this issue, New Growth Transit is building a microtransit system with a volunteer network of drivers and coordinating regional transportation services in nine West Central Missouri counties. By providing transportation to those who need it, we are helping people get to medical appointments, job interviews, and other essential services. The ability to get where they need not only improves their quality of life but also promotes self-sufficiency and economic growth in our communities.
But it's not just about transportation. Investing in transportation can have a ripple effect on communities. For example, if residents don't have access to grocery stores, it can affect sales tax and the overall economic health of the community. According to the American Public Transportation Association, for every $1 invested in transportation in rural communities, there's a $5 return on investment. That's why we're dedicated to building this volunteer transportation network that serves our communities and improves our region's overall health and economic well-being.
To educate our communities and policymakers about transportation needs in our region, we use Replica to gather data and insights about our diverse 6,100 square-mile region. As a result, we are able to identify where transportation is needed the most and understand how communities are getting around and where to fill in the gaps. For example, we've seen a greater need for workforce transportation in some communities, while others with an older population need transportation for medical appointments.
We have also discovered that in some communities, taxi services do not start until 8:30 or 9:00 AM, even though many shift workers need transportation as early as 6:00 AM. Replica data is uncovering new insights that show what transportation truly looks like in our region. By utilizing this data, we can help communities better utilize the transportation services they have, as well as identify areas in need of improvement. Additionally, we have used the data to educate our local officials about top employer destinations that, before seeing the data, did not have the destinations on their radar. This clearly highlights the importance of data to inform transportation decisions.
We have the data to make informed and impactful decisions about our communities, and by working together with policymakers and local governments, we can build a sustainable and effective transportation network that benefits everyone in our region.
Interested in learning more about New Growth Transit? Watch the video below.
Interested in doing the same analysis for your region? Get in touch here.