Photo Katie Harris, courtesy RTC

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.

Trail Use Trends: Leveraging Data to Make the Case for Trails

August 1, 2020

Join trail professionals from around the United States for an in-depth discussion around data collection along trails. Panelists share how they have developed trail traffic monitoring programs, on the local, regional and national level, as well as how they are collecting more detailed information about who is using their trails. The discussion includes a focus on how this data is leveraged in a myriad of ways for advocacy, funding and telling the story of trails in communities.

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

More than half of all trips in the United States are within a 20-minute bike ride or less, and more than one in four trips are within a 20-minute walk or less, according to the 2017 National Household Travel Survey. Even so, the majority of these short trips are taken by automobile. Across rural, suburban and urban America, there are opportunities to shift short trips from driving to walking and biking by creating safe active-transportation networks. In the process, this mode shift can create remarkable economic returns and improve the quality of lives; in fact, the findings of this report reveal that the potential annual return on investment of connected active-transportation infrastructure could be as high as $73 billion+ in a modest scenario and $138 billion+ in a substantial scenario. Mode shift leads to fewer cars and light trucks on clogged roads, as well as less air and climate pollution, while also creating a transportation environment that favors physical activity.

Read Report

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.