Coastal Georgia Greenway Market Study and Projected Economic Impact

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Uses studied: ,
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Place: Savannah, St. Marys

Overview

This study found that the Coastal Georgia Greenway has the potential to generate substantial economic impact along its route. Using findings from studies on a range of existing rail-trail projects, the study projects use and economic impact for the year the trail is constructed as well as five years later, after more people learn about the trail.

Relevance

This study is relevant to communities evaluating a prospective rail-trail, particularly one envisioned as a regional tourist attraction rather than as a commuting or recreational venue for residents. The authors provide a range of estimated monetized benefits, which lends credibility to their estimates. For benefits they were not able to monetize, such as property values and health impacts, the authors included a qualitative discussion.

Location

The trail goes between Savannah (population 136,620 in 2013) and St. Marys, Georgia (population 17,390 in 2013). The route in between these towns is generally rural.

Trail Type

The study assesses the potential of the Coastal Georgia Greenway, a planned 150-mile multi-use trail. This trail will connect to 200 miles of existing trails in the region.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to provide a careful projection of future trail use and economic impact to justify public and private investment. This study was produced for the Coastal Georgia Greenway Steering Committee and funded by a University System of Georgia Board of Regents grant through the Regional Intellectual Capital Partnership Program at Georgia Southern University.

Findings

  • Predicted annual trail use is 220,000 users in 2015, when the trail will be completed, and 495,000 users in 2020, when trail use will reach its potential.
  • Total expenditures by trail users are projected to be $4.3-$5.6 million when trail construction is complete and $9.7-$12.6 million five years after trail construction.
  • Business revenue impacts are expected to be $5-$6.5 million the year the trail is constructed and $10.2-$15 million five years later.
  • The trail is expected to generate $1.7-$2.4 million in labor earnings when it is completed, rising to $3.5-$5.1 million five years later.
  • Trail-related business impacts are expected to support 95-133 jobs the year it is completed and 192-285 jobs five years later.
  • Construction is expected to have a one-time expense of $67 million, which will support 1,067 jobs and generate $34.4 million in labor income. Annual trail maintenance is expected to cost $4 million annually, supporting 63 jobs and generating $2 million in labor income. This may not be new spending in the community if the funds are merely reallocated from other parts of local budgets.

Methods

The authors base projections about trail use and expenditures on studies of existing long-distance rail-trails.

The authors forecast trail use by cyclists based on a statistical model developed using state-level data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ 2001 National Household Travel Survey. Based on findings from another study, they assume that 10 percent of locals who currently travel outside the region to ride would instead stay in the region to ride this trail. They predict growth in the number of trail users using the average of two existing studies in Georgia and the South that predict annual growth of 4 percent per year and 1 percent per year.

The authors use two different scenarios to predict the mix of overnight, day-trip, and local users on the trail. For the low scenario, they assume 50 percent local users, 45 percent non-local day trip users, and five percent overnight users. For the high scenario they assume 20 percent local users, 75 percent non-local day trip users, and five percent overnight users. The proportions were based on a survey of studies on other trails.

Based on two other studies the authors assume that locals will spend $7 per day, non-local day trip users will spend $25 per day, and non-local overnight users will spend $60 per day. These figures are at the high end of the range found in other studies.

Trail construction and maintenance costs were estimated from data reported on other systems in the region and from planning documents for this trail. They estimate the trail will cost $192,000 per mile to build and $7,500 per mile per year to maintain.

The authors estimated economic impact using a regional economic model called IMPLAN.

Citation

Toma, M., J. Hoag, and R. Griffin. 2003. Coastal Georgia Greenway Market Study and Projected Economic Impact. Armstrong Atlantic State University Center for Regional Analysis.