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The Problem.

Urban trails are frequently described in terms of their health benefits to a community, but they also offer other types of benefits: recreation, mobility, and reductions in automobile use, among others. Unfortunately for planners and advocates of active transportation, these benefits can be difficult to quantify.

The Solution.

Using techniques derived from recent transportation planning research, I estimated the benefits and costs of the Schuylkill River Trail, a urban trail that passes through northern and central Philadelphia. The benefits outweighed the costs in eight out of nine cost-benefit scenarios, with a benefit-cost ratio of 2.77 in the most likely scenario. Under this scenario, recreation and health accounted for about 95 percent of the total benefits. I also found that, though small, the mobility benefit was increasing in importance based on a spatial analysis of bicycle commuting trends.

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