Estimates of the Economic Benefits Accruing From an Expansion of Houston’s Bayou Greenway Network


  • John L. Crompton


Economic benefits, greenway trails


The Houston Parks Board developed a Bayou Greenway Initiative. It proposed a comprehensive interconnected 310-mile trail system along the 10 largest bayous in the Houston area. More than 245 miles of shared-use trails would be added to the 55 miles of existing bayou trails. It was recognized that before taxpayers and elected officials would commit to the estimated $480 million to complete the project, they would demand to know what return it would yield. This resulted in the economic analysis of incremental benefits that is described in this paper. The analysis estimates economic values for benefits associated with (a) the physical and mental health of residents (use value, health care cost savings), (b) environmental health (reduced vehicle use and air pollution abatement, runoff reduction, and ecosystem services), and (c) economic health (retiree retention and relocation, enhanced property tax base). Low, moderate, and high estimates were made for each metric, yielding annual economic benefits of $104.5 million, $117.1 million, and $140.5 million, respectively. It is recognized that the embryonic nature of the available science means the best estimate of $117.1 million is subject to a potentially substantial margin of error. Nevertheless, the magnitude of economic benefits is so great that changes in assumptions or methodological refinements are unlikely to affect the overall conclusion that investing in the Bayou Greenway Initiative offers impressive returns for the residents of the greater Houston area.





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