Michelle Beiler, Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering
As interest in sustainable transportation options rises, rail-trailsmultiuse paths created from former railroad corridorsare in demand. Rail-trail development projects promote sustainability through environmental, economic, and social benefits such as enhancing public health, reducing vehicular travel, and promoting local economic development. This study explores methods to measure the travel demand and economic impact of developing a rail-trail. A methodology, the Rail-Trail Impact Assessment Method (RTIAM), is proposed and is applied to the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail (BVRT), in Pennsylvania. An agency or committee could follow the method with the goals of (1) identifying trail demand through survey methods, manual counts, and automatic counts, (2) exploring the economic impacts as well as benefits to trail users, and (3) evaluating the need for possible trail expansion. The BVRT case study suggests the applicability of the method to a real-world trail project and exemplifies how local communities can begin to measure and promote the benefits of rail-trail development.
Beiler, Michelle; Burkhart, Kelly; and Nicholson, Mike. “Evaluating the Impact of Rail-Trails: A Methodology for Assessing Travel Demand and Economic Impacts.” International Journal of Sustainable Transportation 9, no. 7 (2015) : 505-519.