Due to population growth in Texas, and as people move into affordable areas outside of urban areas, once rural communities become suburbs. It’s a subtle change and one that has official consequences. It turns out that the US Census people determine what’s rural and what’s urban from the data they collect every decade. So, several communities around Austin that were rural in 2009 have now been reclassified as urban in 2012 (the census was done in 2010 but it takes awhile to sift thru all that information). The towns of Georgetown, Kyle and San Marcos now have the distinction of being urban (Article by Claire Osborn in the Austin American Statesman, print edition, May 14, 2012).

So what? They are still small towns and seem fairly pastoral if no longer truly rustic. One “so what” is important to older people who do not drive but need to get around. How’s this? Allow me to digress…

Rural areas don’t have mass transit. No bus routes wind thru the rural lanes because the population is too sparse and bus service is not profitable or even manageable for small communities. In days past, rural elderly who needed a ride into town got one from a family member, neighbor or kindly church lady. That still works but as society has spread the family out across the country and as elders become more isolated, the government has stepped up with rural transportation schemes (see Note below). These are heavily subsidized by the Federal government and local communities get bus service for a song. For example, Georgetown’s rural bus service costs the city $10,000 per year and the Feds pick up the rest of the approximately $250,000 cost.

These services only serve rural areas and these new urban areas are no longer eligible for the service. Each of these communities now need to create their own bus service and find some way to pay for it. I expect they will figure out how to develop new services and find additional local, state, and Federal monies to pay for it.

This is a social problem solved at the community level but it also affects individuals, especially the people who depend these transportation services. The sudden loss of access to mobility can have major implications. In addition, there is a scary fragility about many aspects of life. Things may seem fine today, and tomorrow some distant person or event can alter the whole picture. Storms can erase our homes in an instant. An essential care provider can fall sick or die in an accident. The government bean counters can redefine where you live.

Little things make a difference, both in positive and negative ways.

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Note: The Capital Area Rural Transportation System, or CARTS, is a Rural Transit District formed through inter-local agreement by nine county governments in the seventy-five hundred square mile region surrounding the Texas capital city. The CARTS District includes all of Bastrop, Burnet, Blanco, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays and Lee counties and the non-urbanized areas of Travis and Williamson counties.

Image from: http://darknomad.com/13-things-you-must-get-used-to-when-travelling-in-the-third-world