SURTC has published a report analyzing the costs and benefits of providing transit services in rural and small urban areas. The full report and an executive summary can be found at the following link:
This study focuses on the qualitative and quantitative benefits of small urban and rural public transit systems in the United States. First, a thorough review of previous literature is presented. Then, a framework is developed which focuses on three main areas of transit benefits most relevant to rural and small urban areas: transportation cost savings, low-cost mobility benefits, and economic development impacts. This study estimates the cost savings from using transit in place of alternative modes and the significant costs that would result from trips foregone in the absence of transit. Estimated benefits are compared to the costs of providing service to derive benefit-to-cost ratios. Results are presented nationally, regionally (FTA regions), and statewide. Sensitivity analysis is also conducted to illustrate how the benefits and benefit-cost ratios vary with changes in key variables. With estimated benefit-cost ratios greater than 1, the results show that the benefits provided by transit services in rural and small urban areas are greater than the costs of providing those services.