Automated passenger counter
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An Automated Passenger Counter (APC) is an electronic device available for installation on transit vehicles including buses and rail vehicles which accurately records boarding and alighting data. This technology can improve the accuracy and reliability of tracking transit ridership over traditional methods of manual accounting by drivers or estimation through random surveying. These devices are becoming more common among American transit operators seeking to improve the accuracy of reporting patronage as well as analyzing transit use patterns by linking boarding and alighting data with stop or station location.
One way APCs work is by using infrared lights above the doorways to a vehicle. A set of invisible (to the human eye) beams of infrared light shine down, spaced so that the order in which the beam is broken by a person determines if they are entering or exiting the vehicle. Except in extreme crush-loads the accuracy of this technology is quite high.
Alternatively, CCTV cameras can be used together with intelligent people counters to log numbers of people getting on and off at each stop or station. These video passenger counting systems can be over 98% accurate.
With CCTV counting, operators can verify that the system is counting properly simply by watching the video back - this shows people getting on and off the vehicle together with the increasing counts.
The APC computer can also integrate with an on-board GPS system to link passenger data to vehicle location. This provides a wealth of data for agencies to analyze about the utilization of the system based on location, direction of travel, and time.
Like many other data-collection applications on board transit vehicles, the information can be transmitted wirelessly to a server when a bus is garaged for the day, may need to be downloaded through a physical connection, or could be uploaded in real time.
The use of APCs is beneficial for transit service planning as well as accuracy of reporting. APCs can be especially helpful in high passenger volume applications such as subway and light rail or Bus Rapid Transit. APCs can be crucial in allowing all-door boarding on buses for gathering accurate patronage data and comparing that data to fare revenues.
Use in California
It is likely that most large transit agencies in California are already utilizing APC technology. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has incorporated this technology in their fleet.
Real-time Crowding Information
APCs provide the foundation for providing real-time information on vehicle crowding to transit riders. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, since crowded vehicles can present a public health hazard. If crowding information is available in real time, riders can elect to wait for the next vehicle if it is coming soon and less crowded, as detailed in this article from the folks at The Transit App. In conjunction with agency efforts to adjust service, this information can keep transit riders safer and more informed in 2020 and beyond. Modesto Area Express is an example of a transit agency offering this information in California.
National Center for Transit Research. "A Guidebook for Using Automatic Passenger Counter Data for National Transit Database (NTD)Reporting" 2010.
Transit Cooperative Research Program. TCRP Synthesis 77 "Passenger Counting Systems." 2008
- Automatically Counting Passengers, Retail Sensing, Retrieved 5 October 2015