There are many rail trails currently in use or in planning stages across the US. Below is a list of some of the studies and related materials which may be useful in understanding the issues and how other rail trail efforts have addressed these issues.
|Studies of Existing Rail Trails||Studies of Proposed Rail Trails|
Click here for a list of acronyms used frequently in the rail trail studies.
The Impact of Rail Trails on Nearby Residential Property Values: A Case Study of the Minuteman Bikeway and Lexington, Massachusetts
Susanna Hilfer, Salem State University, December 18, 2007
This extensive study of Lexington home sales showed a steady climb of average price within a quarter mile strip each side of the Bikeway after the rail trail was built. Overall, some of the results were inconclusive.
Download PDF Hilfer-Impact-of-Rail-Trails-on-Property-Values
The Impact of the Little Miami Scenic Trail on Single Family Property Values
Duygu Karadeniz, University of Cincinnati, April 14, 2008
This 92-page Masters thesis carries out a statistical pricing technique to measure the impact of the rail trail on single-family residential property values in southwest Ohio. The analysis suggests that each foot increase in distance to the trail decreases the sale price of a sample property by $7.05. In other words, being closer to the Little Miami Scenic Trail adds value to the single family residential properties.
Cutting Edge Research in Trails and Greenways – Michigan’s project
Dr. Christine Vogt, et al., Michigan State University, Mid America Trails & Greenspace Conference, December, 2007 Chicago, IL.
This presentation describes research on six of Michigan’s rail trails. Included are data on the number and type of trails users, opinions of adjacent residents, and their use of the trail. Economic benefits and the opinions of adjacent businesses are also described.
Download PDF (934K)
Road and Trail Intersection Safety
Parks & Trails New York, September 2007
This study examines the current state of design and management of intersections between trails and roadways and offers policy and design recommendations. Information in the report is based on surveys of 194 different trails. Recommendations include increased awareness, clarification of laws, maintenance of intersections, better use of signs and improved design.
Bicycle Paths: Safety Concerns and Property Values
Los Angeles County, Metropolitan Transport Authority
August 20, 2007
There are many misconceptions about the safety of bicycle paths/trails and their relationship to property values/the real estate market. The LA MTA assembled a collection of excerpts from various websites, journals and other online resources that provide information on the often misunderstood nature of bicycle paths/trails and their effect on the community.
Download PDF (96K)
Alternative Pavement for Shared Use Paths
George Batchelor, Supervising Landscape Designer, MassHighway, March 12, 2007
This presentation describes types of trail surfaces, lists guidelines and regulations related to trail surfaces, and provides illustrative examples including a pedestrian path in Carlisle (crushed stone), the Minuteman National Historic Park trail in Lexington and Concord (multiple surface treatments), and the Upper Charles River Greenway (multiple trail surface treatments).
Section 1 PDF (4.2MB)
Section 2 PDF (5.7MB)
Section 3 (5.8MB)
Section 4 (2.4MB)
Two Approaches to Valuing Some of Bicycle Facilities’ Presumed Benefits
Kevin J. Krizek, University of Minnesota Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 72, No. 3 Summer 2006
The author examines both on-road bicycle facilities (bike lanes) and off-road facilities (shared-use paths including rail trails) in the twin cities area. One approach utilizes a statistical model that relates property values to a large number of variables and then looks for positive and negative indicators. The author finds that proximity to off-road facilities in urban areas increases property values while the opposite appears to be the case in suburban areas. The author suggest that the results for suburban trails may be influenced by other phenomena. In particular, he suggests that lower home values in suburban areas may be a legacy effect of the reduced value of residential property near active railroads. Download PDF
Public Choices and Property Values, Evidence from Greenways in Indianapolis
Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, Indiana University-Purdue University, December 2003.
This study examines the MLS database of sales of about 10,000 homes. The study relates the selling price to a long list of variables, including proximity to rail trails. A sophisticated analysis shows that this proximity is statistically insignificant except for the Monon Rail Trail. The Indianapolis Star noted, “It may not have sand and crashing waves, but the Monon Trail is the equivalent of beachfront property in the Indianapolis area.” Download PDF
Home Sales near Two Massachusetts Rail Trails
Craig Della Penna, The Murphys Realtors, Inc., January 2006.
Homes sales were examined in the seven Massachusetts towns through which the Minuteman Bikeway and Nashua River Rail Trail run. Statistics on list and selling prices and on days on the market show that homes near these rail trails sold at closer to the list price and much faster than other homes in the area.
Download Home Sales near Two Massachusetts Rail Trails (PDF)
Rail-Trail Maintenance & Operation,
Ensuring the Future of Your Rail trail – A survey of 100 Rail-trails
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Northeast Regional Office, July 2005.
Survey results from managers of more than 100 open rail-trails in the northeast region of the US. Topics include a wide variety of trail maintenance and operations issues. The report covers the responses on costs, specific examples, tips, techniques and other appropriate areas of concern to a successful rail trail.
Rail Trail Maintenance & Operation (PDF)
Evaluation of Safety, Design and Operation of Shared-Use Paths
Work done for the Federal Highway Administration
by North Carolina State University, 2005
Six shared-use paths around the country were evaluated in terms of their safety and usability. The level of service, rated from A to F, is quantitatively related to trail width and the number of users per hour.
Salem-Concord Bikeway Demand Estimate
Alta Planning + Design and Rizzo Associates, Nov. 2003
This study gathered usage statistics for three New England shared-use paths as a basis for projecting usage of a proposed rail trail. The usage is strongly dependent on the number of residents within two miles of the trail. The average number of daily trips averages one trip per 33 residents with usage being about three times higher on weekends than on weekdays.
Effects of Off-Street Bike Trails on Home Values in Hennepin County, Minnesota
Jennifer Shillcox, University of Minnesota, April 28, 2003.
The author uses a statistical price model to determine the effects of off-street bike trail proximity on home sale prices . Findings indicate that proximity to off-street bike trails decreases home value; however, homes located close to bike trails integrated with open space sell for a slight premium over those that don’t. The author cautions that the analysis assumes market equilibrium and does not reflect changes over time. She speculates that decreased home values may be a residual effect of the undesirability of property near active railroads and thus may not reflect positive changes after conversion to a rail trail. Download PDF
Indiana Trails Study
The 2001 study done by the University of Indiana is the country’s most up to date study on rail trails and the associated issues. Six Indiana projects (including two rail trails) are covered. The “Final Trail Reports” includes detailed reports on each of the six trails plus a 45 page overall summary report. In the summary report, there is very interesting reading covering the opinions of trail neighbors, property values, crime, etc. Download PDF
Midland County Nearby Businesses and Adjacent Landowners’ Attitudes Towards and Use of the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail in Michigan
Christine Vogt, et al., Michigan State University, January 2002.
Questionnaires were mailed to nearby businesses and adjacent residents. Support for the rail trail increased after it was constructed. Only 2% of businesses and 12% or residents felt that the rail trail was a worse use of land than the abandoned railroad right-of-way. Approximately 80% of residences had at least one member who used the rail trail. https://www.railstotrails.org/resourcehandler.ashx?id=4765
Nebraska Rural Trails: Three Studies of Rail Impact
Donald L. Greer, University of Nebraska at Omaha, October 2001.
This 98-page study looks at the impact of rural rail trails for three trails in Nebraska and one in Iowa. The responses are broken down into three groups: residents, businesses and rural property owners. Overall, the first two groups are positive concerning the impact of the trails. The opinions of the property owners are more mixed. https://www.americantrails.org/resources/nebraska-rural-trails-three-studies-of-trail-impact
Pinellas Trail Community Impact Study
Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, September 2001.
This study was carried out of a trail near St. Petersburg, FL. A homeowners survey indicates a high percentage of those living near the trail perceive it as an asset. Property values are increasing at a rate faster than for homes not near the trail. 90% of realtors said that home sales near the trail had increased “somewhat” or “significantly”. Crime rates are the same as elsewhere in the county.
Executive summary (PDF)
Table of contents (PDF)
Chapter 1, Literature review (PDF)
Chapter 2, Property Value Trends Assessment (PDF)
Chapter 3, Crime Statistics (PDF)
Chapter 4, Resident’s Mailback Questionnaire (PDF)
Chapter 5, Telephone Survey of Homeowner Association Officers (PDF)
Chapter 6, Telephone Survey of Realtors (PDF)
Chapter 7, Conclusions and Summary (PDF)
Omaha Recreational Trails, Their Effect on Property Values and Public Safety
by Donald L. Greer, University of Nebraska at Omaha, June 2000.
Residents living within one block of each of the three rail trails in Omaha were polled concerning their use of the trails and the trail’s impact on ease of selling a home, sale price, crime and quality of life. https://www.americantrails.org/resources/omaha-recreational-trails-their-effect-on-property-values-and-public-safety
Rail Trails and Safe Communities, The Experience on 372 Trails
by Tammy Trace & Hugh Morris, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, January 1998.
This 28-page study surveyed law-enforcement officials and crime statistics. The report shows that crime on rail-trails is not a common occurrence and that they remain much safer than many other environments. The research suggests that converting an abandoned rail corridor to a trail tends to reduce crime.
The Prairie Spirit Trail: An Economic Impact Study of Phase 1
Cindy R. Pauls, Kansas State University, 1997.
This thesis examines the impact of the first significant rail-trail project in Kansas. The first two chapters and the appendices provide an understanding of the rail-trail concept and process. The subsequent chapters examines the positive economic impact that provides support for the development of future rail-trails.
Abstract, Table of Contents and Introduction (PDF)
Chapter 2. Background (PDF)
Chapter 3. Methodology (PDF)
Chapter 4. Results (PDF)
Chapter 5. Conclusions, Afterwards and References (PDF)
Appendices A-C (PDF)
Appendices D-F (PDF)
The Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail: Its Impact on Adjoining Residential Properties
Schenectady County NY, 1997.
A report covers the views and opinions of property owners adjacent to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Hike Trail. The landowners feel that the trail has either no effect on or has improved their ability to sell their homes or actually increased the value of their property. The benefits considered most important were safe opportunities for recreation, health, and fitness pursuits. Landowners overwhelmingly reported that development and management of trails such as the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail is a good use of public funds. https://headwaterseconomics.org/trail/18-mohawk-hudson-bike-hike-trail/
Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails and Greenway Corridors
Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance, National Park Service 1995.
This extensive resource book covers many aspects of the positive values of greenways. There is extensive quantitative information included.
Analysis of the Economic Impact of the Northern Central Rail Trail
Maryland Greenways Commission, 1994.
This 37-page report (plus graphics) has many sections. The responses of neighbors concerning increased property values and ease of selling their homes are quite positive (Section IV-48, Impact on Property Values). https://headwaterseconomics.org/trail/92-md-north-central-rail-trail/
The Impact of the Brush Creek Trail on Property Values and Crime
Michelle Miller Murphy, Senior Project, Sonoma State University, April 1992.
The study surveyed residents, apartment managers, real estate agents and law enforcement agencies in Santa Rosa, CA. The study concludes that the existence of the trail does not cause an increase in crime. Property values were not affected, or if anything, increased. Overall, the trail has a positive effect on the quality of life in the neighborhood. Download PDF
The Impact of Rail-Trails: A Study of the Users and Property Owners from Three Trails
A study by the National Park Service and Penn. State University: Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, Moore, Graefe, Gitelson and Porter, February 1992
This large study covers three rail trails in Iowa, Florida and California. The study systematically surveyed users, property owners, and real estate professionals. The demographics of trail users, economic benefits, desirable characteristics, problems encountered and effects on property values are examined.
Executive summary and Table of Contents (PDF)
Introduction and Study Methods (PDF)
Study Results (PDF)
Converted Railroad Trails: The Impact on Adjacent Property
Leonard P. Mazour, Kansas State University, 1988.
This 161-page thesis reviews many rail trails, but focuses on the Root River Trail and the Luce Line Trail in Minnesota. The surveys of adjacent landowners indicate that concerns were greater before conversion than the problems actually experienced. Only 11% feel that the trail was not a good expenditure of money. 81% believe that trail users cause few or no problems. 88% feel that the trail had either no effect or increased the value of their property.
Abstract and Table of Contents (PDF)
Chapter 1, Introduction (PDF)
Chapter 2, Background / Literature Review (PDF)
Chapter 3, Methodology (PDF)
Chapter 4, Results & Interpretations (PDF)
Chapter 5, Conclusions and Recommendations (PDF)
Evaluation of the Burke-Gilman Trail’s Effect on Property Values and Crime
Seattle Engineering Department, Office of Planning, May 1987.
The Burke-Gilman was one of the early rail trails. The trail leads along the lake into the center of Seattle. There are over a thousand homes close to or on the trail. Consequently, the reaction to the trail for these home owners was of prime concern. The report includes clippings from real estate ads and notes that property near the trail is significantly easier to sell. Burke-Gilman Study (PDF)
Studies of Proposed Rail Trails
2007 Massachusetts Bicycle Transportation Plan
Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works
Prepared by Planners Collaborative, December 2007
The plan provides an inventory of existing and planned on-road routes and off-road shared-use paths including the Bruce Freeman Rail Tail. A seven-corridor Bay State Greenway network is outlined.
Regional Bicycle Plan
The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission March 2007.
The Regional Bicycle Plan (plan) describes the current bicycle transportation network, with detail about roads, paths, parking facilities, and transit connections. Recognizing that most significant projects to improve bicycling in the region will be evaluated by the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the plan offers suggested criteria specific to bicycle projects. The plan concludes with a listing of priority projects and programs to guide state, regional, and local action in the coming years.
Regional Bicycle Plan (PDF) (2.5MB)
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Environmental and Engineering Assessment
Town of Sudbury MA Fay, Spofford and Thorndike, December 2006
This 134-page assessment done under contract to the Town examines many engineering and environmental issues including topography, bridges, road crossings, parking, trail enhancements, wetlands and wildlife habitat. Alternative trail surfaces are examined and a range of costs provided as a function of trail width, surface and bridge design. Appendices contains maps of the rail bed and natural resources, along with letters from businesses. The overall conclusion is that the rail trail is feasible.
Feasibility Study for a Proposed Extension of the Bruce N. Freeman
Memorial Path in Sudbury and Framingham,
Cathy Buckley Lewis, Central Transportation Planning Staff,
Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, October 2006
This study examines Phase III of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, the section from Route 9 in Framingham to the crossing of the Mass. Central rail bed just north of Route 20 in Sudbury. The study looks at the history, geography, road crossings, accident statistics, projected usage, community impacts and estimated costs.
Table of Contents (PDF)
Executive Summary & Introduction (PDF)
Chapter 1 Existing Conditions (PDF)
Chapter 2 The South Sudbury Industrial Track (Part 1) (PDF)
Chapter 2 The South Sudbury Industrial Track (Part 2) (PDF)
Chapter 3 Proposed Rail Trail (PDF)
Chapter 4 Implementation & Appendices (see below) (PDF)
A. History of Rail Ownership and Service
B.Excerpts from the Environmental Section of the Report of the Framingham-Sudbury Rail Trail Task Force
C. User Demand
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Environmental and Engineering Assessment Report: Concord Section
August, 2005. Prepared for the Town of Concord, MA. Prepared by Fay, Spofford & Thorndike LLC.
A 97 page feasibility study covering the 3.5 of the 3.6 miles of right-of-way in Concord (the study excludes the Rte 2 Crossing currently being addressed by MassHighway as part prison rotary reconstruction project).
Town of Acton, Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Feasibility Study
January, 2004. Prepared for the Town of Acton, MA. Prepared by Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, LLC.
A 191 page feasibility study covering the 4.6 miles in Acton.
Visitor Center for the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex, Environmental Assessment
US Fish and Wildlife Service, January 2006.
This 47-page document reviews considerations that have led the FWS to locate a new visitor center within the Assabet River Wildlife Refuge. The Assabet River Rail Trail ARRT runs along the north edge of the refuge. A key part of the assessment is the 9-page “Appendix A: Compatibility determination for bicycle access”. FWS has determined that cycling is compatible with the agency’s mission and that cycling will be allowed on designated roads and trails on the refuge. Cycling will provide increased opportunity for the public to the access natural features of the refuge in an environmentally preferable mode of transportation. A link to the ARRT is an important feature.
Proposed Concord-Sudbury Bikeway
Mary P. McShane, Central Transportation Planning Staff,
Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization, August 12, 2003.
This is an update of the 1987 CTPS Lowell-Sudbury Bicycle Path
Feasibility Study. The update addresses only the Concord and Sudbury
sections of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. The focus is on traffic
volumes, crash data and intersecting streets. (PDF)
Department of Environmental Management 2002: A Greenway Vision for Massachusetts.
The 38-page “vision” was prepared in cooperation with the Appalachian Mountain Club and the National Park Service. Specific calls to action include: Protecting and promoting long-distance trail corridors; creating and extending a cross-state trail (Mass. Central Rail Trail); “trail banking” unused rail corridors; providing support for rail-trail efforts. A number of rail-trail projects are mentioned. https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/uu/connections_36610_28060.pdf
Lowell-Sudbury Bicycle Path Study
Central Transportation Planning Staff, MAPC, Boston, MA, October 1, 1987.
This study asserts the feasibility of building a bicycle/hiking trail along the rail right-of-way. The study Includes maps, detailed the intersections and potential difficulties along the route. Lowell-Sudbury Bicycle Path Study (PDF)