For purposes of regulating outdoor advertising and classifying highways, the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation defines rural areas as locales situated outside areas with populations of 5,000 people, explains its website. However, for planning purposes, the body defines these areas in terms of proximity to metropolitan centers with populations of 50,000 or more people. In contrast, the U.S. Census Bureau views areas that do not fit its definition of urban as rural, notes its website.
In general, the Federal Highway Administration considers areas outside the limits of unincorporated or incorporated villages, towns or cities rural, according to its website. The organization further organizes these areas into three subcategories; basic rural, developed rural and urban boundary rural.
Characteristics of basic rural areas include stable or diminishing populations, and a paucity or total lack of population centers having at least 5,000 people, opines the Federal Highway Administration. The economies of such areas are generally based on agriculture or natural resources, and transportation patterns tend to be localized, conforming to the “farm-to-market” paradigm.
Developed rural areas, on the other hand, typically contain dispersed areas or counties with one or more population centers of 5,000 or more people, reports the Federal Highway Administration. Unlike their more basic counterparts, developed rural areas generally boast more mixed economies, with service- or industry-based economies in cities, and natural resource- or agriculture-based economies in rural areas.
Bordering metropolitan areas, urban boundary rural locales are generally highly developed, with population growth patterns, economic growth patterns and transport networks heavily influenced by the adjacent urban centers, notes the Federal Highway Administration.