Photo by RTC/Katie Harris

Our commitment to research is driven by a simple but powerful goal: to assist trail builders across America in creating trails and trail networks that change the fabric of their communities—increasing mobility, improving health and wellness, spurring economic development and supporting vibrant social interactions.

We continue to achieve this by:

  • Implementing a research agenda that provides the trail-building community with resources, materials and innovative training methods
  • Documenting the benefits (and returns-on-investment) of filling gaps in biking and walking systems, leveraging the benefits of strong partnerships with world-class researchers in the field
  • Compiling community success stories and lessons learned that communicate the essential role of trails, and biking and walking infrastructure, and serve as models for other communities and policy makers.
  • Publishing research findings in partnership with our external academic partners in peer-reviewed journals and research publications

Through several initiatives, RTC is catalyzing trail development as an effective and essential part of every community’s future, which promotes physical activity and economic and social vitality.

The Trail Modeling & Assessment Platform (T-MAP)

RTC, in partnership with communities and leading researchers in the fields of transportation, health and economics, is leading a nationwide effort to create the next generation of urban trail planning tools—which will transform the way America develops trails and trail networks in the future.

The Trail Modeling and Assessment Platform, or T-MAP for short, is a three-year initiative that, when complete, will result in cutting-edge communication, forecasting and assessment tools that will help communities make the real case for increased investment in trails, and biking and walking infrastructure.

Go to our T-MAP page to learn more about this three-year initiative’s core research models.

Economic Impact Studies: Trail User Counts and Surveys

RTC has worked with more than a dozen trails and scores of communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New Jersey to conduct trail user surveys and produce reports that demonstrate the economic value of trails—in the millions of dollars.

To access a full list of reports going back to 2006, go to our Trail User Counts and Surveys page.

Research Reports

Active Transportation for America

First published in 2008 and recently updated in 2014, Active Transportation for America makes the case—for the first time—that increased federal funding in bicycling and walking infrastructure would provide tens of billions of dollars in benefits to all Americans.

The report quantifies the national benefits of active transportation infrastructure and presents a scenario analysis exploring how adequate federal investment in bicycling and walking can create healthier places for healthier people.

Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers

Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers: Walking and Bicycling in Small Towns and Rural America, published in 2012, explores the myth that active transportation is only an option for people in the largest cities where destinations are often close together and the street network is supplemented by transit. This research report presents an innovative GIS analysis of the 2009 National Household Travel Survey to demonstrate that, in fact, active transportation is a part of life even far beyond urban centers.

National and State Trail Statistics

RTC’s trail development team tracks and documents several types of trail statistics, including national rail-trail and multi-use trail mileage, state rail-trail and multi-use trail mileage, and the longest rail-trails in America.

Access the most current statistics.