Rural Needs, Statewide Answers graphic with landscape image
Kyle Shelton
Kyle Shelton, CTS Director

I’m excited to share the new thematic focus for CTS in 2024: Rural Needs. Statewide Answers: Improving Transportation for All Communities. We are looking forward to working with partners across the state and beyond throughout the year on elements tied to this theme.

Why rural transportation? Because mobility and transportation practices look vastly different depending on the context within which they take place. And, too often, the unique challenges and opportunities in rural transportation take a backseat to the attention given to urban and suburban issues by researchers or agencies. 

Traveling to the doctor’s office, visiting a friend who lives a few miles away, dropping a child off at school: Each of these trips takes on a different look depending on whether it takes place in Minneapolis, Thief River Falls, or a rural township in Greater Minnesota. It might take more time to reach a commercial center in a rural setting, or mobility options may be limited to personal vehicles in many contexts. 

The differences don’t stop at personal trips and errands. Delivering goods, building and maintaining infrastructure, managing impacts to unique environments, providing emergency responses, and connecting employees and employers are all examples of elements that manifest differently depending on location. 

At the same time, there are an amazing number of commonalities across rural and urban communities. People are traveling to the same types of destinations and looking to access many of the same services. In most cases there are lessons to be learned from interventions or new materials that can be applied across geographies. Recognizing where and how urban and rural transportation differ and align offers a chance to better serve both locations with future work. 

Throughout this year we’ll be focusing on the types of mobility issues faced by rural communities and residents by highlighting research articles and projects, hosting webinars and events, sharing articles and case studies, and convening stakeholders. We’ll also feature some of the exciting things happening in many parts of Greater Minnesota as communities confront these challenges head on. Some of these examples may come through the work of the new Empowering Small Minnesota Communities program that CTS is co-leading with several University partners to help small, rural Minnesota communities craft impactful infrastructure projects. We’ll be sharing research around addressing transportation gaps in rural areas. We’ll be working with researchers to identify how technologies—such as connected and autonomous vehicles—or new practices to reduce pollution issues in stormwater runoff can offer solutions to rural communities. 

As we pursue this work, we’ll be sharing our findings directly with residents, agencies, and other stakeholders via events throughout the state and features on this site—beginning with completed rural transportation projects by CTS Research Scholars and coverage of them in articles and by the news media.

We hope you find these resources valuable, and we encourage you to contact us with questions and your suggestions and ideas around how we can continue to keep the spotlight on rural transportation issues in 2024.

— Kyle Shelton, CTS Director