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The 606, Chicago’s 2.7-mile, $95 million trail, is the only elevated, multiuse trail in the US. Opened to use in June 2015 after more than 15 years in planning and development, The 606 was designed to provide residents of nearby neighborhoods having major open space deficits with a safe, attractive place for recreation, fitness, commuting, and other purposes. Above all, The 606 was designed to be used, incorporating features to address concerns of local residents and facilitate walking, jogging, bicycling, and other activities. To better understand its use, we studied trends and patterns in trail traffic during the first three full years of operation (2016-2018). Based on analyses of counts taken with infrared sensors at two locations along the trail, our data show that, while The 606 is heavily used, total use declined in both 2017 and 2018. Cumulative trail traffic volume on the western, less affluent end of the trail declined 16.1% from 1.2 million in 2016 to just over 1 million in 2018. Cumulative volume on the eastern, more affluent end of the trail declined 11.9% from nearly 1.4 million in 2016 to just over 1.2 million in 2018. Despite these declines, patterns of use have remained consistent, with much higher use in summer and “shoulder” seasons than in winter, higher use on weekends than weekdays, and different hourly patterns on weekends than weekdays. A statistical model shows that approximately 78% of the variation in daily use is associated with variation in weather and day-of-week. We hypothesize that the declines in use could be associated with differences in weather patterns over the years, congestion on the trail during peak periods of use, a novelty effect that has worn off over time, or changes user perceptions and preferences, perhaps associated with the resource. Research strategies to test these hypotheses are outlined.



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