Monday, February 04, 2019

Report: Driverless cars can't solve rural transportation woes without broadband and better-marked roads

Scanty public transportation means rural residents already have a harder time getting around without a car than people in urban areas. That gap is likely to stay the same or widen once self-driving cars become more common, according to a recent report by the Berkshire County Selectmen's Association, which represents 30 towns in far western Massachusetts. The issues there are much the same as those facing rural areas across the nation.

"Hundreds of country roads in Berkshire County will be off-limits to autonomous vehicles, unless telecommunications gaps are plugged and roads themselves improved," Larry Parnass reports for The Berkshire Eagle.

Rural residents' difficulty in getting around hampers economic development, limits access to health care, and forces schools to spend too much money on transportation, according to BCSA president Andrew Hogeland. He served on the statewide Commission on the Future of Transportation, which issued a report in December with recommendations for improving rural transportation, Parnass reports.

Both the BCSA and CFT reports say school transportation needs a makeover. School buses are a huge expense for rural school districts and sit idle for most of the day, Hogeland said. The reports also agree that the lack of public transportation in rural areas makes aging in place more difficult for seniors and makes residents more vulnerable to food deserts, Parnass reports.

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