Sunday, December 18, 2016

Going to the Woods Is Going Home: Recreational Benefits of a Larger Urban Forest Site — A Travel Cost Analysis for Berlin, Germany

• The travel cost method (TCM) is applied to an urban forest site in Berlin, Germany.
• The study strongly suggests the feasibility of the TCM for urban forest sites.
• Recreational demand is less elastic for Berlin residents than for non-residents.
• Online survey participants show a more elastic demand than those sampled on-site.
• An overall consumer surplus of 14.95 € per visit is estimated for the whole sample.

We present an application of the travel cost method to a large urban forest site in Berlin, Germany. The analysis is based on a large onsite survey and the same survey administered online. Although such applications are rare in an urban context, applying a seasonal demand model to the case of Grunewald is possible because the distances travelled are relatively large, the majority of the respondents use motorized or public transport, and Grunewald is a large and unique urban forest site with very few substitutes. The main results are the following: (1) The demand for visits to Grunewald is less elastic if only Berlin residents are taken into account compared to when residents from the entire larger urban area of Berlin are considered. (2) Estimated consumer surpluses are therefore greater if only Berlin residents are taken into consideration. (3) In addition, demand is more elastic for the internet sample than for the on-site sample. (4) Results suggest a lower bound overall consumer surplus of 14.95 € per visit. The results indicate that despite its inherent limitations, non-market economic valuation through the travel cost method can provide administrations with a powerful tool to monetize the benefits of urban forest recreation to increase public funding and redirect resources to address intensified use....

We calculated the travel costs to reach Grunewald based on the distances derived from the network analysis. Direct travel costs should include fuel costs and depreciation, depending on the means of transport chosen (Parsons, 2013). We used a rate of 0.30 € per km for journeys by car and motorbike. These costs are based on ADAC (2013) and the German tax law, which allows tax reimbursements for an amount of 0.30 € per kilometer for motorized travel to work. For public transport, a cost of 5.20 € per round trip was assumed based on the price of two single journey tickets for the use of public transport in Berlin. For cycling, we assumed a cost of 0.06 € per km. Even though there are no fuel costs involved with cycling, it is costly due to depreciation and maintenance. Costs for cycling are based on Brühbach (2009), who calculates costs between 0.03 € and 0.12 € per kilometer based on depreciation and annual maintenance costs depending on the annual distance travelled. Walking is also assumed not to incur any costs. If respondents stated that they used more than one means of transport, we weighed the costs of each equally to calculate travel costs. There is no entrance fee charged for accessing Grunewald. Furthermore, we do not have data on the income of the respondents, so we cannot include opportunity costs of time. The calculated travel cost in our sample ranges from zero to 49.07 € per round trip, with a mean of 4.84 € and a standard deviation of 4.58.
The consumer surplus amounts to 14.95 per visit for the full sample and to 20.66 € for the Berlin sample. For the Berlin sample, travel costs are slightly lower than for the full sample, ranging from zero to 27.66 with a mean of 4.54 (standard deviation = 4.07). 
For robustness checks, we thus also calculated consumer surpluses for maximum and minimum assumptions on the frequency of visits.... Changes in consumer surpluses are relatively low: For the minimum assumption, consumer surplus amounts to 13.45 per visit for the full sample and to 19.67 per visit for the Berlin sample. For the maximum assumption, consumer surplus amounts to 16.05 per visit for the full sample and to 21.33 per visit for the Berlin sample.

As discussed in
Section 2.5, we potentially oversample the respondents that visit Grunewald more often, which could bias surplus estimates. Using a model with endogenous stratification for the medium visit number assumption for the Berlin sample, we find that the consumer surplus per visit stays almost constant at 20.38 per visit....

We ... also carried out the calculations of consumer surplus assuming that the costs for cycling are zero. In this case, the range of travel costs for the whole sample remains constant (zero to 49.07 ) but the mean slightly decreases from 4.54 to 4.53 . Using these cost assumptions and the medium visit number assumption, the estimated consumer surplus increases to 17.33 per visit for the full sample and to 27.76 per visit for the Berlin sample.

In a further robustness check, we exclude all 85 respondents who have zero travel costs because they walk to Grunewald and do not use other means of transport. As for the CS per day, estimates are virtually unchanged compared to when these respondents are included in the sample. For the sample including the residents of the city of Berlin and the greater Berlin area, CS per visit amounts to 15.06
. The CS for Berlin residents only amounts to 20.05 per visit....

Since we observe a signi
ficant effect of the survey mode, we also calculated consumer surpluses separately for the internet sample (N =316) and for the on-site sample (N = 567), including both respondentsfrom the city of Berlin as well as respondents from the entire larger urban area of Berlin. The results reveal that consumer surplus for the internet sample amounts to 8.93 while it amounts to 23.09 for the onsite sample. This indicates that the elasticity of demand for visits to Grunewald is substantially larger for those respondents sampled over the internet than for those respondents sampled on-site.
The recreational value of the urban forest site derived using the TCM in our application is comparable to results from TCM analyses applied in rural areas.... Two examples of results from travel cost studies referring to recreation in German forests include Elsasser (1996), who reports a mean consumer surplus of 9.87 2000, and Löwenstein (1991), who reports a mean consumer surplus of 51.89 2000. Results differ among the countries where the study was carried out. Most consumer surpluses calculated for the UK, for example, are lower than our estimates while those for Sweden and Finland tend to be higher (see Zandersen and Tol (2009) for a meta-analysis)
by Christine Bertram 1, Neele Larondelle 2 and 3 
Ecological Economics via Elsevier Science Direct
Volume 132; February, 2017; Pages 255–263

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