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Economic Benefits of Active Transportation

BicyclingProviding active transportation options (walking and bicycling) can benefit local economies in a variety of ways such as decreased transportation costs, increased property values, decreased health care costs, and increased employment and tourism.

“Active transportation systems foster economic health by creating dynamic, connected communities with a high quality of life that catalyzes small business development, increases property values, sparks tourism and encourages corporate investment that attracts a talented, highly educated workforce.” – Partnership for Active Transportation


“81% of Millennials and 77% of Active Boomers say affordable and convenient transportation
alternatives to the car are at least somewhat important when deciding where to live and work.”
  - Investing in Place for Economic Growth and Competitiveness, American Planning Association, May 2014

Photo credit: Thinkstock

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has completed a white paper intended as a technical resource for local communities and others interested in understanding how to better estimate the economic benefits of nonmotorized transportation investments, including the different types of outcomes from these investments such as: mode share changes; environmental benefits; increased accessibility; health benefits; and related economic benefits. More information about this resource is available through the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center or by viewing the white paper.

Click on the following sections for a brief overview of these benefits and links to tools and additional research to better
understand the economic benefits of active transportation.

Transportation Cost Savings

By enabling Americans to walk or bike instead of drive for short trips, the federal government avoids underwriting more expensive strategies for reducing congestion, managing road wear, or serving the mobility needs of those who cannot drive.” – Partnership for Active Transportation


Providing alternative modes of travel to automobile transportation makes the overall transportation system more efficient.  By lowering congestion, government costs related to automobile-oriented infrastructure maintenance and construction can be saved.


Individual costs of car ownership can also be saved by choosing active transportation.  According to AAA, driving costs for each commuter ranges between $0.52 and $0.78 per mile. These figures include gas, maintenance, registration, depreciation and other costs. Active transportation systems provide cost-effective alternatives to the expense of driving.




Cost of automobiles and dependence on foreign oil, People for Bikes, 2014

Evaluating Active Transport Benefits and Costs, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2014


,, Commute Solutions, 2017

Guidelines for Analysis of Investments in Bicycle Facilities, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, 2005

Property Values


“From a real estate perspective, trails can have significant, positive spillover effects on property values when these properties are located within reasonable distances to the trails.”
– University of Cincinnati researchers Rainer vom Hofe and Olivier Parent


Studies have shown that homes near trails sell at a higher premium and in a shorter amount of time than those farther away from such facilities. Trails have been found to be the preferred setting for individuals looking for exercise options and are the second-highest ranked amenity for new homebuyers.




Economic Benefits of Bicycle Facilities and Transportation, People for Bikes, 2014


New Research Finds that Homeowners and City Planners Should 'Hit the Trail' When Considering Property Values, University of Cincinnati, 2011


Developer and Realtor Perspectives on Factors that Influence Development, Sale, and Perceived Demand for Activity-Friendly Communities, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 2010


Trail Effects on Neighborhoods: Home Value, Safety, Quality of Life, Boulder Area Trails Coalition, 2007


Property Value/Desirability Effects of Bike Paths Adjacent to Residential Areas, University of Delaware, 2006


Property Values, Recreation Values, and Urban Greenways, Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 2004

Healthcare Costs


“Building trails is cost beneficial from a public health perspective. The most sensitive parameter affecting the cost-benefit ratios were equipment and travel costs; however, even for the highest cost, every $1 investment in trails resulted in a greater return in direct medical benefit.”   A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Physical Activity Using Bike/Pedestrian Trails


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than one-third (35.7 percent) of U.S. adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents were obese in 2009 –2010. Health and Human Services recommends that Americans maintain 30 minutes of physical activity per day to stay healthy. However, 51 percent of Americans do not meet this national physical activity recommendation. This switch to active transportation, especially for quick short trips, could have a positive impact on obesity rates in America. According to the National Household Travel Survey, 25 percent of all transportation trips in the U.S. are one mile or less. These types of trips are the easiest to convert from driving to walking or biking.


Decreasing vehicle miles travelled by automobile can also improve health through improved air quality. Motor vehicle exhaust contributes to the risk of respiratory diseases and many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Active transportation infrastructure can help mitigate rising health care costs by providing alternative, healthy options for users. 




Health and Environmental Benefits of Walking and Bicycling, Federal Highway Administration, 2014


Infographic: The Role of Transportation in Promoting Physical Activity, Active Living Research, 2012


Promoting Active Transportation: An Opportunity for Public Health, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, 2012


CDC Transportation Recommendations, Center for Disease Control, 2011


Trail Expenditures Shown to Reduce Health-Care Costs, National Trails Training Partnership, 2009


Physical Activity and Changes in Health Care Costs in Late Middle Age, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 2006


Higher Direct Medical Costs Associated with Physical Inactivity, Dr. M. Pratt, C. Macera, and G. Wang, 2000

Employment and Tourism

“When confronted with a decision of whether or not to include pedestrian and/or bicycle facilities in transportation infrastructure projects, planning officials should do so, not only because of the environmental, safety, and health benefits but also because these projects can create local jobs.” – University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute


Active transportation systems may benefit communities by attracting bicycling enthusiasts and out-of-town visitors who spend money in the community. Studies have shown the average bicycle tourist spends $18 - $80 per day when stopping in a community, contributing to economic development. Pedestrian shoppers also spend more in stores than drivers. 


Studies have also shown that incorporating active transportation elements into infrastructure projects increases the number of jobs created by the projects at a higher ratio. Providing active transportation facilities creates a direct, positive economic impact on a community.




Economic Benefits of Bicycling Industry and Tourism, People for Bikes, 2014


Economic Impact of Trails, National Trails Training Partnership, 2014


Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business, Alliance for Walking and Biking, 2014


Business Performance in Walkable Shopping Areas, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2013


Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts, University of Massachusetts, 2011


The Business Case for Active Transportation, Go For Green, 2004


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