The Economic Benefits of Active Transportation

When promoting active transportation and complete streets infrastructure, health and environmental benefits are easily quantified. Calculating economic benefits can be more difficult. Recently, studies have shown that bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure also bring economic benefits. A study conducted by the League of American Bicyclists in 2009 researched the economic benefits of bicycling for business.

The study found that bicycling increases jobs and tax revenue for communities. Firstly, bicycling infrastructure creates more construction jobs per dollar when compared to road projects. This creates more jobs locally while also having lower implementation costs. Secondly, the study found that people on bikes are more likely to make repeat trips to local stores, which can increase business. Lastly, cities can save money on parking costs by providing bike parking, which costs less to implement. Increased bicycle parking provides access for more people in a smaller space; with more spaces available, more people will have access to local stores and the city will increase its visitor capacity.[1]

Pedestrians in New Brunswick
Pedestrians in New Brunswick

With the information from this study, The New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center developed a model to assess the economic impact of active transportation in New Jersey: “The Economic Impacts of Active Transportation in New Jersey.” The study used an input-output model to look at the economic impact of active transportation-related capital investments, active transportation-related business, and active transportation-related events. It found that active transportation-related infrastructure, business, and events added an estimated $497.46 million to the New Jersey economy in 2011.

  1. Active transportation-related infrastructure was collected from NJDOT, metropolitan planning organizations, counties, and municipalities. The estimated infrastructure investment from all of these sources is $63 million, only one percent of the state’s total transportation budget. This money was distributed across 250 projects, creating roughly 648 jobs and $149.63 million in economic activity.
  2. Active transportation-related business was estimated at $290.01 million in 2011. The study looked at 317 specialty retail stores, general sporting goods stores, manufacturer, and wholesalers that receive revenue from bicycling, running or walking-related gear and services in order to identify the economic impact of active transportation on business. The study found that active transportation-related business was responsible for an estimated 3,001 jobs and $41.13 million in tax revenue.
  3. Active transportation-related events were measured by running and walking events listed on Running in the USA, an online directory of races and race results, and bicycling events were collected from USA Cycling. Through these outlets, the estimated participation in run and walk events was 197,930 people and bicycling was 243,338 people. A survey revealed that 19% of participants were estimated to travel from locations outside of New Jersey. In addition, 6.7% of participants stayed overnight. Active transportation-related events estimated $35 million in revenue, of which roughly $10 million was derived from out of state visitors.[2]

Overall, active transportation-related infrastructure investment, business, and events in 2011 created $497.46 million in economic activity, supported 4,018 jobs and added and generated an estimated $49 million in total tax revenue. These findings show that active transportation is not only important for health and community, but also contribute to the economic vitality of local communities and the state.

2011 Economic Contributions of Active Transportation in NJ

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Component Output ($1,000) Employment (jobs) Compensation ($1,000) GDP($1,000)
Infrastructure Investment 149,632 648 44,565 75,615
Businesses 290,009 3,001 90,823 171,303
Events and Races 57,818 369 17,786 31,200
Total Effects 497,459 4,018 153,174 278,119

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The New Jersey Department of Transportation has been energetic in promoting active transportation across the state. The NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center works directly with state, county, and municipal governments to promote active transportation infrastructure. To date, the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center has worked with 7 counties and 102 municipalities in adopting complete streets policies. Active transportation contributes to the physical health and economic vitality of communities and its expansion across the state is essential to resilient New Jersey.

To read the full economic impact report, click here.


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