When most people think of public transportation, they think of a subway in New York or a bus in Los Angeles, but there are almost 1,400 rural transit systems in the U.S. One place that’s seen strong growth in rural transit is Montana. Between 2004 and 2016, the number of rural transit systems increased from nine to 37. Nationwide, transportation is the second-largest expense in family budgets behind housing and in spread out Montana, it is the biggest expense for most families. Some riders choose to use public transportation to save money, while for other riders it is their main form of mobility. Montana has a growing elderly population, especially in rural areas. Much of the growth in rural transit in Montana can be traced back to the almost threefold increase in funding available for rural transit in the 2005 federal transportation bill. The increased funding allowed transit operators who previously only provided on-demand service to seniors and people with disabilities to transform into public transportation for entire communities.
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