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We Analyzed Upcoming Trails For Community Impact

Looking at issues like equity, length, population, and connectivity, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia recently analyzed coming-trail segments to better understand the impact these trails will have on citizens of the 9-county Greater Philadelphia Region.

This analysis helped us better understand where already-funded trails should be prioritized for building, and where residents are especially in need of new trails. Keep reading for information on this analysis, how it was conducted, and what it means for The Circuit Trails.

The Circuit Trails network is comprised of hundreds of segments that have four levels of completion. At present, the built segments of The Circuit add up to about 325 miles out of over 800 miles in the total network.

The DVRPC, our region’s metropolitan planning organization, set a goal to complete 750 miles of Circuit trails by 2040 in its long range plan. Unfortunately, the pace of trail development has slowed down and the region is unlikely to meet that goal without further acceleration.

This reality led The Circuit Coalition in 2016 to set an interim goal of completing 500 miles by 2025 to get our region back on schedule.

For the past year, the 65+ Circuit Coalition partner organizations and their volunteers have undertaken an effort to get local and county governments in our region to adopt resolutions in support of this interim goal. We’ve had considerable success: 80 municipalities and six counties have adopted the “500 by 2025” resolution to date.

Not by coincidence, about 180 miles of Circuit trails are “in the pipeline.” Denoted in purple in the DVRPC’s Circuit Status Map depicted above, pipeline segments are those that are not yet in final design/engineering or construction phases, but have organizations or sponsors that are actively working to push them forward. If the region can “convert the pipeline” by 2025, it can meet this interim goal and get The Circuit’s completion date back on track.

As a member of The Circuit Coalition, BCGP recently undertook an analysis of 102 pipeline segments to see how they rank in terms of providing the most positive impact to their nearby communities.

After filtering out segments that are already funded (and thus don’t need as much focus), we performed an analysis that used the following criteria:

  1. Length: Shorter segments are usually cheaper to construct.
  2. Population density: More people living close to the segment means more people who can benefit from its completion.
  3. Equity: Of that population, the proportion that are likely to have a potential societal disadvantage stand to benefit the most from having trails be a part of more economical transportation choices, among other benefits. We used DVRPC’s “IPD” analysis to quantify this.
  4. Connectivity: Segments that are connected to longer lengths of completed trails will bring bigger gains to more people. Population density and demographics of these completed trails were also scored to prioritize connecting to completed trails that affect more people.
  5. Weighting: We then gave these factors relative “weights” to emphasize the segments that can affect the most people.

The combined results led to scores ranging from 0 to 11.9. A more detailed explanation of our methodology can be found here.  We highlighted the ten segments that scored highest in green.

A snapshot of our analysis spreadsheet

Want to know more about individual trail segments? Click here to access our full dataset, which is organized by county:

 

The analysis brought to light several notable findings. While we were not surprised to see a Philadelphia, Trenton and Camden well represented in the results, what was interesting was where specifically. Here’s the top 3, for example, each highlighted in red:

Philadelphia: Tookany/Tacony – Frankford Trail, Section 2 – Kensington Ave to Castor Ave

 

Philadelphia: Forge to Refuge Trail, Market Street to City Line Ave

 

Pennsauken: Merchantville Trail, N 36th St to Euclid Ave

To be clear, BGCP and other Circuit Coalition member organizations will continue to advocate that all trail projects in our region move forward, but now we have more understanding of what value each segment can bring to its community once built.

We’re indebted to the tireless efforts of Kyle Hearing for building the framework for this analysis and crunching the numbers during the revision process.

References:
DVRPC Circuit Status Map
BCGP Circuit Community Impact Analysis Full Results
Impact Analysis Methodology Narrative
The Circuit Trails Website
The Circuit Coalition Member Organizations
DVRPC’s Long Range Plan
DVRPC’s “Indicators of Potential Disadvantage” Webpage

 

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Topics: Biking in Philly, Biking the Suburbs, Connecting Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Network, Featured, The Circuit

One comment on “We Analyzed Upcoming Trails For Community Impact

  1. Tom Kelso

    Maybe what isn’t surprising is how poorly projects ranked outside of Philadelphia County based on the criteria used. There are a number of trails in Bucks, Montgomery and Chester Counties that have the potential for significant increases in tourism and the resulting positive financial gains to the communities. These include the Neshaminy Greenway, completion of the Delaware Canal towpath, the Chester Valley Rail Trail, the Cross County trail in Montgomery County and others. Is the ranking to be used for funding?

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