People will pay more to live near a bike trail


The Illinois Prairie Path as it passes through Elmhurst, Illinois. Photo by Clark Maxwell. 

New research from two University of Cincinnati professors suggest that people are willing to pay more for a house near a multi-use trail. But research on this topic is hardly conclusive. There are studies that suggest the same, and others that suggest the opposite. Research is based on stated preferences (what people say they want; perception) or revealed preferences (using data that shows people’s choices; voting with your dollar).

To be more specific, 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. UC Press Office

Kevin Krizek, then a professor at the University of Minnesota (now at University of Colorado at Denver), conducted research in 2006 on Minneapolis and St. Paul home prices, finding that, within the city, home prices were higher nearer to non-roadside multi-use trails than roadside multi-use trails. He found the opposite effect for suburban homes; each facility had a different negative effect on home price. (See note 2)

It appears that much research is devoted to analyzing a single trail. I haven’t found a meta-analysis on the topic.

Our analyses show that one urban greenway with a multi-use trail generates both positive effects on property values and recreation benefits, but that not all recreational greenways have positive effects on property values. Some greenways had no statistically significant effects and the sign on the coefficient in the model was negative, the opposite of the expected direction. This finding is important for it demonstrates that the effects of greenways are not the same and that benefits associated with particular greenways should not be assumed to be similar at other locations. From a study on trails in Indiana.

What I think is more important than justifying the building of trails by studying their economic impact on housing prices (see note 1), though, is that people want trails. Trails are used by more than those who live near one.

Blue Island resident and Active Transportation Alliance board president, Jane Healy, says it’s about access in the video below. It’s 22 seconds from a longer campaign to promote the Cal-Sag Trail.


More on this topic


1. It appears that Republican congresspersons are not getting the message that people want trails (see note 3), with or without the property value raising justification attached. And they’re definitely not getting the information that bike facilities create more construction jobs per dollar than road facilities. From Atlantic Cities, which inspired this article:

Congressman John Mica of Florida called for eliminating the Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails programs, which fund many bike trails. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wants to divert funds for the Transportation Enhancements program to bridge repair, while Sen. James Inhofe has said one of his top three priorities is to eliminate “frivolous spending for bike trails.”

I do not mean to imply that the researchers who conduct these studies start with a goal of justifying the impacts; they measure the impacts. But these studies have been used to justify the expenditure, or to use them to convince real estate developers to share their implementation cost. Multi-use trails, when they used to help meet a community’s goals to provide more transportation opportunities, reduce obesity, and increase access to open space, are hardly frivolous.

2. Krizek approaches the topic of measuring home sales prices from the point of view that cost data for bicycle projects is easy to obtain, but benefit data is not, saying, “Benefits, however, are considerably more difficult to estimate, and though the bicycle planning community makes many advocacy-based claims, methodologies for valuing cycling facilities’ benefits are in short supply”. The paper is largely about the results of two methodologies he tried (which may not have been used before by anyone) in order to obtain benefit information: the first was housing prices; the second was about how much additional travel time “individual commuters are willing to spend in order to use enhanced cycling facilities during a typical commute”.

Krizek also pointed out that the results of his research may not apply beyond his survey area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul: “Finally, the external validity of this research may not extend beyond the Twin Cities, where I expect people to be particularly aware of bicycle paths. Nonetheless, it does suggest the order of magnitude of such benefits”.


People bike on the Burnham Greenway for the Perimeter Ride. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

3. I’m not trying to imply that trails are universally desired. I am saying that there are places in the United States where people have organized around a multi-use trail project in order to get cities to build it and politicians to fund it. Many projects receive a large portion of their funding from the federal government. Two local examples are the Bloomingdale Trail and the Cal-Sag Trail.

4. The Bloomingdale Trail received federal funding from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant program, not Transportation Enhancements.

5. The amendment proposed by Senator Rand Paul I discussed in Note 1 was defeated today. Tweet from League of American Bicyclists. The final vote was 60 to 38. News from Associated Press.

Read this discussion of community plans and goals

Updated 13:57 to add additional links to articles on the topic of cutting funding to the Transportation Enhancements program, which can be used to fund multi-use trails. Updated November 1, 2011, to add Notes 4 and 5. 

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