The longstanding difficulty of balancing the needs of highly populous areas with those of more dispersed population in any federal program is hard-baked into most public policy discussions, which is one reason federal formulas take into account the apportionment differences by land area as well as by population. We could really go down a rabbit hole on that discussion!
Transportation for America, in 2010, highlighted that in addition to making sure that rural areas get their fair share of federal transportation funds, they also need the flexibility to make decisions that suit their needs, since rural and non-urban communities are incredibly diverse in type and need. One need that comes to our minds (some of which was covered by T4America) is better rural paratransit for the people who cannot drive; another is applications of smart technology to on-demand services, contracts with taxi and jitney services that are already working in the private sector, and approaches to inter-city bus travel and other longer-distance transit that helps people have more opportunities for work and errands.
A bigger issue at hand in our discussion is that we are simply coming from different paradigms. Yours emphasizes mobility as the highest priority for infrastructure spending, while we are looking at infrastructure’s connectedness to quality of life. For example, even factoring in a very long commute of, say, 90 minutes to two hours each way, and according an hour or so a day for errands, that’s still only a fraction of an average person’s life. Even leaving aside the arguments we could make about induced demand (“if we build it they will come”) and lack of transportation options for some of those drivers, what happens during non-driving time? What have we done to make sure communities are safer from severe weather events, more connected on the information grid, more pleasant and walkable or bikeable, more amenable to new economic development? These things matter, and infrastructure can answer to these needs.
On the topic of infrastructure — bicycle infrastructure as a simple stripe on the pavement? We beg to differ! Really good dedicated bike infrastructure is serious business on- and off-road, and its construction can mean jobs: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2013/06/10-brilliant-pieces-bike-infrastructure/6009/