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Rural Livability

In our towns and villages, quality of life is critical to the well-being of residents and to the vitality of the economy.

In our towns and villages, quality of life is critical to the well-being of residents and to the vitality of the economy.
photo credit: PPS

What Is a Livable Rural Community?

Home to 17 percent of America’s population (49 million people) and comprising 75 percent of the nation’s total land area, rural places come in all shapes and sizes. From market towns and villages to farmlands and mining communities, rural areas share one key characteristic: a strong interaction between the land and its people.

Whether it supports mining, farming, fishing, recreation, tourism, or local commerce, some key element of the natural landscape serves as the economic and cultural foundation for every rural community. This dynamic interaction between people and the land is the driving force that affects virtually every aspect of rural community life, including the ways in which we can move people, goods, and information.

A livable rural community manages change while maintaining the essence of its natural and cultural identity. It adapts to constantly changing physical, economic, and social conditions in creative ways that preserve fundamental qualities while capitalizing on new ideas, people, and resources.

How Can Rural Communities Use CSS to Enhance Livability?

The case studies and publications collected here demonstrate Nine Strategies for Enhancing Rural Livability Through CSS:

Improving Roadway Safety

Improving roadway safety for all users by reconfiguring rural highways to reduce conflicts among drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, especially around schools, parks, recreational areas, and neighborhoods.

Leveraging Resources

Creatively leveraging resources (financial, cultural, and human capital) to implement CSS projects.

Building Partnerships

Building effective partnerships and engaging community members to envision, design, support & champion CSS projects.

Fostering Downtown Revitalization

Fostering downtown revitalization along Main Street highway corridors by reconfiguring lanes/ street networks, improving pedestrian facilities & civic spaces, and managing parking.

Managing High-Speed Regional Traffic

Managing high-speed car and truck traffic along major highways that pass through rural communities, using techniques such as gateway treatments, traffic calming, congestion management strategies, roundabouts, and visual cues.

Enhancing Access To Natural Assets

Enhancing access to natural assets, promoting rural tourism, and preserving natural & cultural resources by improving accessibility, safety and aesthetic quality along rural highways & roads.

Improving Goods Movement

Improving industrial and/or agricultural goods movement without disrupting rural character & natural resources.

Transforming Strip Development Corridors

Transforming suburban strip highways into pedestrian- and transit-friendly communities by connecting street networks, transit networks and pedestrian/bike networks.

Expanding Transportation Options

Expanding the range of transportation choices for rural community residents to reach jobs, healthcare, shopping, and daily activities by developing barrier-free pedestrian, bicycle, transit networks; pathways for LEVs, golf carts, scooters, Segways, etc; and investing in high-speed internet services.

CSS and Rural Livability: What’s the Connection?

The CSS approach is particularly useful for rural communities, given its focus on creating transportation systems that are in harmony with the community and that preserve and enhance the environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic, and natural resource values of the area. For example, CSS can help rural areas advance the following four goals developed by the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities in its 2011 report Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities:

Four Goals For Advancing Rural Livability

  • Promote Rural Prosperity: Create an economic climate that enhances the viability of working lands, preserves natural resources, and increases economic opportunities for all residents in rural communities. Rural communities can use a CSS approach to promote rural prosperity by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders – economic development experts, major employers, schools, human service providers, environmental conservation advocates, etc – to develop a shared vision, to agree upon specific strategies, and to leverage resources for transportation improvements that support each element of this goal.
  • Support Vibrant and Thriving Rural Communities: Enhance the distinctive characteristics of rural communities by investing in rural town centers, Main Streets, and existing infrastructure to create places that are vibrant, healthy, safe, and walkable. Rural communities can use a CSS approach to promote thriving town centers by coordinating improvements to streets, sidewalks, trails, bike lanes, transit systems, and parking areas with projects and programs to improve surrounding buildings, parks, and civic spaces.
  • Expand Transportation Choices: Create communities where everyone—including elderly, disabled, and low-income residents—can conveniently, affordably, and safely access local and regional goods and services. Rural communities can use a CSS approach to expand transportation choices by engaging people of all ages and abilities in transportation planning processes in order to identify and address any "weak links" in the accessibility chain – ensuring barrier-free, complete, and affordable transportation systems that connect homes to shops, medical offices, workplaces, schools, churches, and recreational areas.
  • Expand Affordable Housing: Create communities where everyone—including elderly, disabled, and low-income residents—can afford housing and transportation expenses. Rural communities can use a CSS approach to expand affordable housing options by integrating multimodal transportation plans and projects with goals for land use, housing, human services and economic development in order to provide an array of housing options located strategically within activity centers and connected to multimodal transportation systems.


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