D&L Trail 2012 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis

Uses studied: ,
Place: Wilkes-Barre and Bristol


In eastern Pennsylvania, the D&L Trail receives approximately 283,000 visits annually, nearly half of whom report using the trail at least once a week. Although the economic impact estimates likely are significantly overstated, the trail’s effect on nearby residents’ health is a substantial, valuable asset.


This study is relevant for those interested in the potential number of users on a regional rail trail or similar bicycling and pedestrian trail, particularly in a metropolitan area. It is also relevant for those interested in how such a trail might affect local residents’ physical activity levels.

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-locals’ visit, it is likely that much non-local visitor spending would have happened regardless of the trail, creating another bias in the economic impact estimates.


The D&L Trail runs between Wilkes-Barre and Bristol, Pennsylvania, just east of Philadelphia. The population of Wilkes-Barre was 40,814 in 2014; the population in Bristol was 9,595.

Trail Type

The D&L Trail is a multi-use rail-trail, used predominantly by cyclists, walkers, and joggers. At the time this study was conducted, 84 percent of the planned 165-mile trail was complete.


The purpose of this study is to estimate total use, preferences of users, and economic impact associated with the trail.

This study was conducted with support from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Community and Conservation Partnerships Program.


  • The trail has an estimated 282,796 user visits per year. Forty-five percent of respondents report using the trail at least once a week.
  • Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they believe the trail has affected how much physical activity they get. More than half of respondents identified “Health” as the primary reason why they use the trail.
  • More than three-quarters of trail users are from Pennsylvania. Fifty-four percent of respondents are from the counties through which the trail passes.
  • Reflecting the predominantly local users, 39 percent of trail users learned about the trail via word of mouth. Sixteen percent learned about the trail by driving past it.
  • The average respondent spent $33.49 per visit.
  • Fourteen percent of trail users report staying overnight during their visit to the trail. Seventy percent of overnight visitors report paying for lodging during their trip. These respondents spent an average of $132 per night and stayed 2.2 nights.


The authors gathered information on preferences and spending of trail users by making surveys available at 18 locations along the trail and at special events. Of the 4,500 surveys distributed, 862 were returned.

The authors collected data on trail use using passive infrared counters installed on the trail from June-October. These data were adjusted to account for users passing multiple counters on the trail, missing counts, and out-and-back trips. These adjusted data were extrapolated to estimate the annual total use.


Tomes, P. and C. Knoch. 2012. D&L Trail 2012 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis. Camp Hill, PA: Rails to Trails Conservancy.