How Did 9,000 Trail Users Impact Northeast Communities? We Found Out.

Posted 05/12/16 by Liz Sewell in Trail Use, Success Stories

Ed Rasbach of West Chester, Pennsylvania, and his two dogs, on the Merchantville Bike Path | Photo by Laura Pedrick/AP Images

Over the past 10 years, RTC has implemented 20-plus rail-trail surveys in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to determine just how much of an impact trail users have had on the region. These trails include regional links and neighborhood gems like the Schuylkill River Trail, Pennypack Trail and Merchantville Bike Path.

The three infographics below—which focus on data in urban, suburban and rural areas—are aggregates of more than 9,000 trail users. And while this information is specific to the northeast region of the U.S., it helps drive home the point that trails aren’t just recreational amenities—but important tools for economic development, community revitalization and health.

Urban, Suburban and Rural Trail Use and Impact 

Let's start off with a bang: Health came out as the #1 reason for trail visits in the surveys in all three aggregates, but most notably in suburban areas, where it scored 64 percent!

Additionally, trail users spend tourism dollars and impact local economics. Trail users in urban areas spend an average of $383 per year on goods such as bikes, gear and clothing. In urban and suburban areas, a majority of trail users are using the trail at least once or more weekly, and contributing between $4.02 and $16.53 to the economy per trip. That’s some good spending.

We also found a higher percentage of trail users under 45 in urban areas, perhaps more evidence that younger people, including millennials and young professionals, prefer to live in urban walkable and bikeable areas.

And finally, there’s a higher percentage of trail users over the age of 55 (47 percent) and 65 (18 percent) in rural areas than there are in urban or suburban. No direct links between older Americans and trails can be extrapolated just from the data, but one could conclude that the older generations of respondents value their rural trails for recreation and physical activity. (The proof is in the use!)

For more information on these infographics, contact RTC’s Northeast Regional Office.

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