Evaluation of the Burke-Gilman Trail’s Effect on Property Values and Crime

Benefits studied:
Uses studied: ,
Place: Seattle


This study found that the Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle is most often seen as an asset by those who moved to the neighborhood after it was built, while those who have lived there since before the trail was built are less likely to see the trail as increasing the sales price or ease of selling their home. Crime associated with the trail is negligible and adjacent property owners’ biggest concern is privacy.


This was one of the first studies to ask property owners about their experiences living near the trail, and its results are often cited for supporting trails as beneficial to adjacent property owners. When interpreting these findings, keep in mind that they are self-reported and reflect the respondent’s own opinion of the trail. For instance, someone who enjoys living near the trail is more likely to believe others would want to live near the trail as well, increasing their home’s perceived property value and salability. The reverse is also true.


The study is based in Seattle, Washington.

Trail Type

The trail assessed was the Burke-Gilman Trail, a paved, 12-mile trail that runs mostly through residential neighborhoods. At the time of the study, the trail had been open for eight years and was used by approximately 750,000 users per year.


The purpose of the study is to better understand the experiences of residents who live near this established and highly-used trail, with the goal of informing the debate over a trail that was proposed in another part of the city at the time the study was conducted, and which was opposed by some adjacent property owners. The study was conducted by city staff.


Properties near the trail sell for approximately 6 percent more than properties away from the trail and sell more quickly. There is no difference in sale price or ease of selling properties immediately adjacent to the trail compared to those near the trail, although the authors did not define “near.”

  • Most of those who bought their home after the trail was built see the trail as an asset, increasing their home’s value. Those who bought their home before the trail was built are less likely to see it as an asset.
  • Police officers do not observe any increase in vandalism or burglaries at homes adjacent to the trail. There are, on average, two incidents per year that could be related to trail users.
  • No residents stated that the experience of living near the trail was worse than they expected.
  • For the 3 percent of residents who had problems sufficient enough for them to consider moving, the problem was privacy.

The findings in this study are consistent with other studies on neighbor perceptions of trails (see 43, 51).


The authors used the results of three sets of qualitative interviews. They interviewed residents who live adjacent to and near the trail, real estate agents who sell homes near the trail, and police officers who patrol near the trail. The authors asked residents about the timing of their home purchase (whether before or after the trail was built), the effect the trail would have on selling their home, and the effect the trail has had on their quality of life. Real estate agents were asked how the trail affects the sales price and ability to sell homes immediately adjacent to and near the trail. Police officers were asked about trail user-related property crime.

The number of respondents and response rate are unclear.


Zarker, G., J. Bourey, B. Puncochar, P. Lagerwey. 1987. Evaluation of the Burke-Gilman Trail’s Effect on Property Values and Crime. Seattle Engineering Department Office of Planning.