Depending on your source, defining a rural area may be driven by population density, geographic isolation, or even commuting patterns. While the US Census Bureau considers rural to be an area with less than 2,500 people, the US Office of Management and Budget considers rural areas to be those not a part of metropolitan areas (50,0000 people or more). The various ways to define rural areas reflect the multidimensional nature of these spaces. Similarly, the term small town has a wide array of connotations, encompassing communities ranging from tiny villages to sprawling suburbs. For this Learning Module, both rural and small towns are discussed since many small towns have a similar set of transportation needs as their rural counterparts and are often geographically isolated within a greater rural context.
Unlike in densely populated urban communities, residents in rural areas and small towns do not usually have access to a wide range of mobility options. Typically, fixed-route public transit service is either limited or non-existent, flexible services require significant advance notice, and a private car is the most common mode of transportation. This is concerning as over a million households in rural America do not own personal vehicles.
Furthermore, rural populations are also older than their urban counterparts, with residents 65 and older making up 18% of adults in rural areas compared to 13% in urban areas.  This is a crucial consideration for transportation planners, as the elderly tend to have greater mobility limitations. In fact, about one-third of people 65 and older have a disability that limits mobility. 
As a result of the many challenges faced by rural and small towns, public agencies, non-profit organizations, and companies are collaborating in new ways to leverage emerging technology and service models to improve mobility options for rural and small town residents. Similar to the Michigan Department of Transportation, some agencies focus attention on populations with the greatest mobility difficulties, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. Others, like the Minnesota Department of Transportation, are developing regional platforms to enable multi-modal trip planning and payment for rural, small town, and urban residents. Municipalities, like the City of Wilson in rural central North Carolina, are replacing fixed-route transit services with on-demand, microtransit to provide more targeted service and solve first/last mile connections. Finally, private entities, like Iowa-based company Koloni, are working to find models for shared micromobility services that better fit the needs of smaller communities.
Micromobility: Fleets of small, low-speed vehicles, primarily used for single-person short trips in urban areas with good connectivity and a density of destinations. It serves as a first and last-mile option that is faster than hailing a taxi, walking, or transferring to low-frequency transit. Common forms of micromobility include bikeshare and scootershare, and semi-motorized variants of these modes. Typical trips are 1-3 miles, but some trips can be much longer, especially when aided by an electric vehicle.
Mobility-on-Demand (MOD): A multimodal system of transportation services where an individual can use transportation when and where they need it, without the need for their own personal vehicle. It provides travel options in an integrated network to allow people to get to work, run errands, and go about their daily lives.
Mobility Management: An innovative approach for managing and delivering coordinated transportation services. Mobility management programs focus on connecting customers to the transportation service that will best meet their travel needs through trip planning support, travel training, and aggregation of transportation service information.
Rural: The US Census Bureau does not formally define “rural” areas. However, an area is considered rural if it does not fit into the category of urbanized area (50,000 or more people) or urban cluster (between 2,500 to 50,000 people). Typically, rural areas have a lower population density and limited commercial land use.