Investments in Active Transportation Spur Economic Activity

Over the past few years, there has been an increased interest in the ways in which investments in active transportation spur economic activity, especially in regards to commercial growth, tourism, increased property values, and improved tax revenues.

In 2013, the New Jersey Department of Transportation commissioned a study on the “Economic Impacts of Active Transportation in New Jersey.”  The report found that active transportation-related infrastructure generated an estimated $75.62 million, and active transportation-related businesses generated an estimated $171.3 million in economic activity. In addition, participants in active transportation-related events/races spent an estimated $35.36 million in New Jersey. [1] These findings provide background for an understanding of the ability for bicycle and pedestrian activity to generate economic growth.

According to a March 2016 Urban Land Institute (ULI) report, as walking and bicycling has gained popularity, developers have been constructing residential and commercial buildings near pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure citing property proximity as a selling point.

In the report titled “Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier,” ULI profiled residential and commercial developments in several cities across North America, Europe and Asia that have proximity to and advertise pedestrian and bicycle trails as amenities to the development. The study found that: “trails, bike lanes, bike-share stations and sidewalks add value to development projects; a market for the inclusion of bike-friendly features in residential and commercial properties is growing; relatively small investments in bike-friendly amenities can lead to improved returns and a reciprocal relationship exists between private and public sectors in terms of maximizing investments in active transportation.” [2] The report profiles several international bicycle and pedestrian trails including the Beltine (GA), the Hudson River Greenway (NY) and the Circuit (PA/NJ) closer to home.

beltline trail at night
Historic Fourth Ward Park at night // Atlanta Beltline Incorporated

The Beltline is a brownfield redevelopment project with public parks, bicycle and pedestrian trails and transit options in neighborhoods within the City of Atlanta. One of five trails at the Beltline is the Eastside Trail which contains the Historic Fourth Ward Park. The ULI report profiled Ponce City Market a 2.1 million square foot residential and commercial mixed use development that provides direct access to the Eastside Trail, bicycle storage and valet for residents and guests, extra wide hallway widths to accommodate bicyclist, showers for office workers that commute by bicycle and more. [3]

The Hudson River Greenway is a multi-use trail that runs through fourteen counties in New York State including those with and without physical access to the Hudson River. In Manhattan the greenway is a part of the Hudson River Park. The ULI report profiled Gotham West Apartments and Market in Manhattan as a development taking advantage of proximity to the bicycle and pedestrian trail within the park. Gotham West capitalizes on the millions of residents and visitors to the Hudson River Greenway by offering a bicycle valet and housing a bicycle repair and retail shop in one ground floor commercial space. [4]

The Circuit is a proposed 750 mile (300 miles completed) pedestrian and bicycle pathway that connects several counties in southeastern Pennsylvania with counties in southwestern New Jersey.[5] Once completed, the Circuit will be comprised of existing and newly built trails in each community, including the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia, PA. The value of the Circuit is that it connects trail users to transit options and commercial centers. The ULI report profiled the Station at Manayunk apartment complex in Philadelphia as an example of real estate development that occurs in proximity to bicycle and pedestrian trails. Developers are able to capitalize from proximity to bicycle and pedestrian trails by providing direct access from development to the Manayunk Canal and Towpath, a bike repair shop and a resident Bike Share. [6]

trails photo 2
Stairway access from the Station at Manayunk apartments to the Manayunk Canal and Towpath // The Station at Manayunk

The Circuit is being made possible through a coalition of private, public and not for profit organizations, including the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, New Jersey Department of Transportation and many more. NJ DOT renewed the 1996 NJ Trails Plan in 2009 with the vision that “Everyone has access to a full range of outdoor recreation activities and transportation alternatives within and among communities, and quality trail experiences.” [7] The Plan outlines the various roles and responsibilities of state and local leaders to improve bicycle and pedestrian trails.

The Circuit, Hudson River Greenway and Beltline are examples of how bicycle and pedestrian trails and infrastructure can incite development. The Ponce City Market was the former site of an abandoned Sears factory, and the Station at Manayunk was a brownfield redevelopment site. Prior to the popularity of these bicycle and pedestrian trails, development would have been unlikely to occur in these areas.

In addition to commercial and real estate developments, bicycle and pedestrian paths can have a positive impact on property values leading to more tax revenue for municipalities. A study conducted by Active Living Research a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation titled “The Economic Benefits of Open Space, Recreation Facilities and Walkable Community Design.” synthesizes a sizable number of studies across the U.S. Notably, the report cites that open space can have a positive effect on nearby residential property values dependent on the size of the park and the distance of the home from the park. The report cites a 2000 study in Portland Oregon in which “The existence of a park within 1,500 ft. of a home increased its sale price by between $845 and $2,262.” [8]

As active transportation grows in popularity for personal health, recreation and alternative transportation reasons bicycling and walking facilities have positive impacts on the larger New Jersey economy.

Sources:

[1] Brown, C. 2013. The Economic Impacts of Active Transportation in New Jersey, 36. Retrieved from http://njbikeped.org/portfolio/economic/

[2] Urban Land Institute. 2016. Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier, 15. Retrieved from http://uli.org/report/active-transportation-real-estate-next-frontier/

[3] Urban Land Institute. 2016. Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier, 28. Retrieved from http://uli.org/report/active-transportation-real-estate-next-frontier/

Flats at Ponce City Market. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.flatsatpcm.com/amenities/

[4] Urban Land Institute. 2016. Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier, 22. Retrieved from http://uli.org/report/active-transportation-real-estate-next-frontier/

[5] The Circuit Trails. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.circuittrails.org/what-is-the-circuit

[6] The Station at Manayunk. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.stationatmanayunk.com/philadelphia/the-station-at-manayunk/amenities/

[7] New Jersey Department of Transportation. 2009. NJ Trails Plan Update Executive Summary, 3. Retrieved from http://www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres/trails/pdf/TrailsPlanUpdate_ExecutiveSummary%20LowRes.pdf

[8] Active Living Research. 2010. The Economic Benefits of Open Space, Recreation Facilities and Walkable Community Design, 3-6. Retrieved from http://www.americantrails.org/resources/economics/Economic-Benefits-Trails-Open-Space-Walkable-Community.html

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