Erie to Pittsburgh Trail 2013 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis

Benefits studied:
Uses studied: ,
Place: Titusville and Parker


The Erie Pittsburgh Trail, a network of six connected rail trails in rural northwest Pennsylvania, draw 158,507 users each year. Nine of ten trail users are from Pennsylvania and more than half of all users are riding bikes.


This study is relevant for those interested in the potential number of users on a rail trail or similar bicycling and pedestrian trail.

The economic impact analysis must be read with caution, as the study does not distinguish between local and non-local visitors. Because non-local visitors are the ones generating new spending in the area, and most of the trail users are local, the economic impact estimates are likely overstated. Additionally, because the survey did not ask whether the trail was the primary reason for non-local visits, it is likely that much non-local visitor spending would have happened regardless of the trail, creating another bias in the economic impact estimates.


This study analyzes trails in northwest Pennsylvania, passing through rural areas between the towns of Titusville and Parker (populations 5,419 and 840 in 2014).

Trail Type

This study includes six connected, paved rail trails that total 66 miles: Queen City Trail (1.4 miles), Oil Creek State Park Trail (9.7 miles), McClintock Trail (3.7 miles), Samuel Justus Recreation Trail (5.8 miles), Allegheny River Trail (34.2 miles), and Sandy Creek Trail (12 miles).


The purpose of this study is to estimate the use and associated economic impact of the trail.

This study was funded by the Rails to Trails Conservancy and Community Conservation Partnerships Program Environmental Stewardship Fund, which is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.


  • An estimated 158,507 users are on the trail annually.
  • Ninety percent of respondents come from Pennsylvania. Seventy percent come from the five counties immediately surrounding the trail.
  • Thirteen percent of respondents stayed overnight, spending an average of $80 per night.


The authors obtained trail user spending information using surveys placed at trailheads along the trails. They gathered counts of trail users using passive infrared counters at 12 locations along the trails for one month. After adjusting for out-and-back trips, individuals passing multiple counters, and missed counts, the authors extrapolated the one month of data to an annual estimate.

The authors calculate economic impact by multiplying reported spending by the total number of trail users.


Tomes, P. and C. Knoch. 2014. Erie to Pittsburgh Trail (Between Titusville and Parker, Pa.) 2013 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis. Camp Hill, PA: Rails to Trails Conservancy.