Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Economic Impact Study (2007-2008)

Uses studied: ,
Region: ,
Place: Cumberland (MD), McKeesport (PA)


This study found that many businesses near the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) have experienced increased revenue due to their proximity to the trail, and expect to expand operations to meet demand. The greatest economic impact comes from overnight trail users, who spend seven times as much as day users.


The GAP’s appeal comes from two unique characteristics: it is one of the longest continuous non-motorized corridors in the U.S.; and its proximity to the major population centers of Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. at either end. While these features result in particularly high use, communities near other long-distance trails would likely see a similar difference between single-day and multi-day users’ economic impact.


The GAP connects Cumberland, MD to McKeesport, PA (near Pittsburgh). Cumberland and McKeesport are small cities (populations 20,711 and 19,744 in 2013). McKeesport is approximately 30 minutes from Pittsburgh.

Trail Type

The GAP is a 132-mile system of biking and hiking trails. In 2006, the GAP was connected to the C&O Canal Towpath in Cumberland, MD, creating a continuous 318-mile non-motorized corridor from McKeesport to Washington, DC.


The Progress Fund’s Trail Town Program, Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau (LHVB), and the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) partnered together to estimate the economic impacts associated with the completion of the GAP trail. These groups contracted Campos, Inc. to poll businesses located on and around the trail, as well as conduct marketing research among trail users.


The following results relate to the GAP’s economic impact on businesses:

  • One-quarter of the businesses’ 2007 gross revenue could be attributed to trail users.
  • Sixty-four percent of businesses reported that they experienced at least some increase in gross revenue because of their proximity to the trail.
  • In 2008, roughly one-third of businesses mentioned that they had expanded or planned to expand operations or services due to impacts of the trail. This was particularly true of outdoor-related businesses, restaurants, and lodging establishments. The most popular expansions were:
  • Increasing advertising efforts (in publications and along the trail),
  • Offering shuttle service for customers,
  • Providing bike parking/accommodations, and
  • Increasing staff.
  • Despite the Recession, revenue and employee wages actually increased from 2007 to 2008.

The following demographics and impact findings relate to GAP trail users:

  • Forty percent of trail users surveyed planned an overnight stay as part of their trip.
  • Overnight trail users spent an average of $98 a day in the trail communities. Thirty-four percent of the overnight trail users reported household incomes of $100K or more; 33 percent reported incomes of $51K to $100K.
  • Local/day trip trail users spent an average of $13 a day in the trail communities. Eleven percent of day trippers reported income over $100K; 35 percent reported incomes of $51K to $100K.
  • Over eight in ten trail users indicated that they were 35 years of age or older.


A total of 1,272 trail user intercept surveys were administered at eight different locations along the Great Allegheny Passage between May 23, 2008 and October 26, 2008. The survey was also distributed online among individuals that had requested information about the trail within the past year, from which they received 302 responses.

A total of 117 businesses were surveyed through multimodal means of data collection (58 via mail; 30 online; and 29 via phone) between March 17, 2008 and April 24, 2008.

The response rates for these surveys were not provided.


Campos, Inc. 2009. The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Economic Impact Study (2007-08). The Progress Fund.