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The Impact of Greenways and Trails on Proximate Property Values: An Updated Review

John L. Crompton, Sarah Nicholls

Abstract


In the 1980s a “perfect storm” emerged that enabled trails and greenways to move to a central role in contemporary discussions of urban planning. It was comprised of three elements: Railbanking legislation that preserved railroad corridor rights-of-way and authorized their conversion to trails; federal funding for trails in transportation bills; and a public perception of trails as a priority urban infrastructure amenity. 

When trails are retrofitted through communities, they are invariably opposed by some proportion of proximate property owners who fear a devaluation of their property. To address this issue, a number of opinion surveys were administered between 1978 and 2006 to residents living proximate to trails. 16 such studies were reviewed. They revealed that in both urban and rural contexts only 6% perceived the trail to negatively impact their property value. However, while 47% of the 2,647 respondents living close to one of the 22 urban trails believed it increased their property’s value, this was believed by only 16% of the 1,212 who resided proximate to one of 10 rural trails.

Opinion data provide general impressions, but they lack empirical verification and quantitative dollar amounts. The emergence of GIS technology and hedonic analysis in the post-2000 era remedied these limitations. Twenty hedonic analyses were identified and their results showed that proximity to a trail resulted in home prices that typically were between 3% and 5% higher than those of comparable homes in the area. 

In the past decade, several cities have developed urban mega-trails which are defined as large-scale investments that receive enduring visibility, have long-term mass appeal, and have a substantial impact on a community’s image and identity. Reviews of hedonic analyses undertaken at the three most prominent mega-trails in New York City, Chicago, and Atlanta confirmed the proximate premiums were generally much higher than those of ordinary trails. Invariably, this created a need to address issues of gentrification and social justice. 

The review’s findings suggest that future research on trails should focus on two nuances. First, it is clear that trails are not homogeneous. There is a need for studies to differentiate among trails with diverse characteristics. Second, the use of electronic data bases has resulted in hedonic analyses incorporating larger samples drawn from more expansive geographical areas. A consequence of this “scaling up” is that potentially substantial differences in the local impact of trails are obscured because only average values are reported. The averages likely underrepresent the impact of some trails and over-represent that of others. The need is for trail specific studies that disaggregate the data by specifying the characteristics of both trail type and abutting demographics. 

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Keywords


Greenways; hedonic analyses; planning; property values; trails

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2019-9906

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