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
Click here for a list
of acronyms used frequently in the rail trail studies.
Studies of Existing Rail Trails
David P. Racca and Amardeep Dhanju, University of Delaware, November 2006
This project examined the literature and presents what is known concerning the impacts on property values with the introduction of bicycle paths and also presents some information on crime in relation to these paths. The majority of studies indicate that the presence of a bike path/trail either increases property values and ease of sale or has no effect. The second half of this report describes a statistical analysis of property values in relation to bike paths in Delaware.
Read the complete article here
Dawn Fuller, University of Cincinnati, October 11, 2011
University of Cincinnati research suggests that location near nature trails could hold a financial benefit for homeowners and ultimately neighboring communities. Housing prices went up by nine dollars for every foot closer to the trail entrance. Ultimately, the study concluded that for the average home, homeowners were willing to pay a $9,000 premium to be located one thousand feet closer to the trail.
Read the complete article here
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.
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)
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.
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
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
Download PDF (96K)
George Batchelor, Supervising Landscape Designer, MassHighway, March
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)
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
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
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)
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)
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.
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.
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
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
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. http://www.prr.msu.edu/trails/Reports/MIDLANDCOREPORT2.pdf
Donald L. Greer, University of Nebraska at Omaha, October
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. http://www.unomaha.edu/recadmin/trails/nebtrails.pdf
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)
by Donald L. Greer, University of Nebraska at Omaha, June
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. http://www.unomaha.edu/recadmin/trails/omahatrails.pdf
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.
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
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)
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. http://www.nysphysicalactivity.org/site_beactiveenv/docs/1.pdf
Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance, National Park
This extensive resource book covers many aspects of the positive
values of greenways. There is extensive quantitative information
included. A chapter of particular interest which addresses
the concerns of abutters, especially property values, is
in http://www.nps.gov/pwro/rtca/propval.htm The chapter contains extensive quantitative information.
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). http://ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/430.html
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
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)
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)
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
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.
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)
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.
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)
2 The South Sudbury Industrial Track (Part 2) (PDF)
Chapter 3 Proposed Rail Trail (PDF)
Chapter 4 Implementation & Appendices (see below)
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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. http://www.mass.gov/dcr/stewardship/greenway/pdfs/connections.pdf
Massachusetts Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight. Senator Cheryl A. Jacques, Chair, May 2001. This report reviews the many benefits of rail trails and points out how the state has a poor record of completing rail trails. The report lists a number of recommendations for improving the situation.
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)