What’s the Real Impact of Trail Use in America? RTC Is About to Find Out.

Posted 09/02/15 by Tracy Hadden Loh in Building Trails, Trail Use

Burke-Gilman Trail | Photo by Barbara Richey

For years, the rail-trail community has relied on local surveys, estimates and anecdotal evidence to analyze the economic value of trails, walking and bicycling nationally, as reflected in studies like RTC’s Active Transportation for America report (recently updated in 2014).

As the rail-trail movement evolves—and communities increasingly recognize the value of biking and walking facilities for transportation, recreation and physical activity—the need for hard numbers to communicate their impact (specifically in terms of dollars saved and in larger community development) has become evident to trail planners and advocates.

Take the T-MAP survey today!  Your response will have an unbelievable impact on the future of the pathways we love! 

Take the Survey

This August, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) embarked on the first-ever nationwide survey of trail use, a major component of RTC’s three-year T-MAP initiative.

Eastside Trail on the Atlanta BeltLine | Photo by Jim Brown

To revisit: The goal of T-MAP is to create analytical models that can accurately—

  1. Measure how effectively trail systems have connected—and could further connect—urban areas
  2. Factor and forecast the demand for, and potential use of, new trail connections
  3. Assess the impact of trail use on regional tourism and economic development, as well as dollars saved in relation to transportation and health care

The tools developed through T-MAP are expected to change the standards for trail development in the United States—revealing the most effective and powerful ways to integrate urban trails into full-fledged active-transportation networks.

The survey will provide the hard (nationally collected) data necessary to calibrate the T-MAP tools and models accurately, resulting in real, scientifically backed arguments for more trails, and walking and biking facilities.

To implement the survey, trail users will be selected by random intercept in 12 urban areas over a four-month period between August and November. Cities tapped for the survey include:

Don’t live in those areas but still want to participate? Take the survey online—and be a part of this groundbreaking work!

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