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New study finds bike/walk projects create more jobs than “road-only” projects

Posted by on June 20th, 2011 at 8:50 am

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Bike jobs.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A new study by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts, has found that infrastructure projects with major bicycling and walking components are more labor-intensive and create 46% more jobs overall than “road-only” projects.

National non-profit America Bikes released a statement about the study today with their Executive Director Caron Whitaker saying, “It’s no secret that investing in transportation infrastructure creates jobs and helps the economy. This study proves bicycle and pedestrian projects are no exception — in fact, they are especially efficient in creating jobs.”

The study was published today by Heidi Garrett-Peltier. In her summary, she explained that data for the study was gathered from departments of transportation and public works departments from 11 U.S. cities including; Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Bloomington, Indiana; Concord, New Hampshire; Eugene, Oregon; Houston, Texas; Lexington, Kentucky; Madison, Wisconsin; Santa Cruz, California; and Seattle, Washington.

Garrett-Peltier and her team used project bids and cost estimates to analyze the direct, indirect, and induced employed created through the various projects. Here’s an excerpt from the summary (emphasis mine):

We evaluate 58 separate projects and present the results by project, by city, and by category. Overall we find that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million. Infrastructure that combines road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million. On average, the 58 projects we studied create about 9 jobs per $1 million within their own states. If we add the spill-over employment that is created in other states through the supply chain, the employment impact rises by an average of 3 additional jobs per $1 million.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because this study builds on preliminary findings by PERI from Baltimore, Maryland that were released back in January.

The report comes out just at Congress is putting the finishing touches on a new transportation bill. Advocates will now add this to their quiver of arguments that spending for bicycling-centric projects should not be scuttled due to the notion that traditional road projects create more jobs.

Download a PDF of the report here.

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  • Greg June 20, 2011 at 9:11 am

    It is not the temporary tax funded jobs that should be counted, but rather the private sector jobs that spring up because the infrastructure has been upgraded to allow improved commerce.

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  • vabike June 20, 2011 at 9:14 am

    This makes perfect sense. With large infrastructure projects, more of of the cost is large equipment and materials, vs. mostly labor for smaller, simpler projects like bike paths and crosswalks.

    But the real stimulus comes from improved transportation systems, making our cities and towns more efficient and appealing places to live, work, and do business in.

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  • Todd Boulanger June 20, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Great news…but sad to say that the existing vested highway-transport engineering sector has a lot of lobbyists in DC to protect how funds are currently being invested (heavy equipment driven large projects). Instead of seeing this as a way of expanding their reach.

    I would have felt more positive of Obama and the chance for the systematic expansion of this type of approach IF Obama had initiated a new CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) for our era to work on our modern infrastructure needs during the banking crisis. This type of labour intensive infrastructure would have addressed the very high youth unemployment while building job skills.

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  • wsbob June 20, 2011 at 10:10 am

    “… data for the study was gathered from departments of transportation and public works departments from 11 U.S. cities including; Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Bloomington, Indiana; Concord, New Hampshire; Eugene, Oregon; Houston, Texas; Lexington, Kentucky; Madison, Wisconsin; Santa Cruz, California; and Seattle, Washington. …”

    Eugene, Oregon rather than Portland, Oregon. Wonder why that is?

    “… A new study by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, …. has found that infrastructure projects with major bicycling and walking components are more labor-intensive …”

    Finding this out probably didn’t require a study. The study might have helped to come to more of a certainty about the number of more jobs that infrastructure projects with major bicycling and walking components involves….46 percent more according to this study.

    Bike and walking infrastructure enhances usability of public roads for a wider range of simpler, more accessible modes of travel. A downside of some aspects of this infrastructure, is added complexity and need for periodic maintenance. Creating more jobs is good, but keeping an eye on minimizing excessive complexity in some of the bike/walk infrastructure ideas developed, is important.

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  • Aaron June 20, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Uh, isn’t this bad news? This could be perceived as bike/walk construction not being as mature or efficient compared to the apparently less labor-intensive and costly road work. The question should be, how can we make bike/walk projects even more affordable and desirable to strapped-for-cash municipalities?

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