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Automatic Passenger Counting (APC) – How it Works

Did you know that there is one data acquisition system that serves as a passenger counter for bus, train and light rail network users? A crucial component in any passenger information system, an APC (automated passenger counter) is an electronic counting device that counts and logs the number of passengers boarding and disembarking at every stop. Together with AVL technologies and systems, they form a crucial passenger information network that every transit system should consider investing in. 

A passenger counter replaces schedule checkers who used to manually collect ridership information—a practice that suffers in terms of accuracy compared to an automated passenger counter, which offers as much as 98% precision in collecting ridership information. Calibrated correctly, these units help transit systems fulfill the reporting requirements of the National Transit Database, as well as data to determine the cost effectiveness of individual routes.

One of the main advantages of an APC over schedule checkers is that they can be installed on and in turn, collect information from an entire bus fleet. This means complete ridership information for every single trip made by each vehicle. Not only do they offer the benefit of highly accurate and complete ridership information, APCs also offer cost benefits despite the expenses of the initial setup. Long term costs are remarkably more manageable as opposed to employing people to manually collect the same information—human checkers who cannot rival the accuracy that APCs offer. 

The question remains: How does an automated passenger counter work? APCs consist of two sensors, typically installed at the same height level at the front and rear doors of a passenger vehicle. As passengers enter or exit, they break the infrared beam between the sensors. This causes the computer to record boarding or disembarking information, according to the order in which the beams were broken. 

These sensors alone are enough to provide transit providers ridership information at gross level. If you want a more in-depth look into your ridership, collecting stop-level information is possible through an AVL or automated vehicle locator program, in which location-based data can be downloaded and analyzed further.

Even more advanced passenger counter systems are beginning to surface in today’s market, many of which include video surveillance and camera sensors that are installed over transit doors. These cameras are linked to a specialized counting unit that runs on a software algorithm designed to detect transit entries and exits. While the cameras and counting unit collect boarding and alighting information, a video server allows users to view footage alongside people count to accurately verify, while at the same time, configure the system over the web.

APC systems from Transign offers transit providers and authorities reliable passenger information at a low cost, regardless of how busy or slow the service. An APC system alone already provides invaluable ridership information. Add vehicle tracking into the mix and you’ll be able to determine ridership statistics on a stop-level basis, allowing you to trace where a transit vehicle is and how many are onboard at any given moment.

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How Automatic Passenger Counting Systems Can Simplify Public Transportation

An automatic passenger counter system is a type of electronic device designed to count the number of passengers boarding and disembarking at each stop. Together with modern passenger information system solutions, these tools are crucial technologies that every transportation agency should invest in. If you are still relying on manual (and often inaccurate) methods of generating passenger data, it is time to switch to more reliable and less tedious means of collecting important passenger statistics, which will ultimately help to improve your services. Talk to Transign today to explore your options.

Transit networks with an integrated passenger information system are able to eliminate the need for schedule checkers that used to collect rider information manually—a far less reliable approach for collecting accurate rider information, especially since manual tracking is very limited in its capacity to actually provide a real view of transit ridership. With an automatic passenger counter, every single person that goes on-board and alights a public transit vehicle at every possible stop of a transit route can be monitored and recorded, which not only simplifies data collection, but enables far greater accuracy and scope for generating database reports on ridership information.

In addition to simplifying data collection, another main advantage of automated passenger information and counting systems is reduced cost, although some may find initial start-up to be high. Long-term benefits, however, more than justify the investment especially when you think about the savings you will get out of eliminating the need to hire more employees in order to manually collect information to the same extent as these systems can.

Exactly how do passenger counting systems work? Most devices are designed with two sets of sensors (one pair each), installed at the same height or level of the front and rear doors of a transit vehicle. When passengers pass through entrance or exit doors, they break the infrared beam that the sensors emit, causing the device to record the activity (either boarding or alighting), determined by the order in which the beams were broken. Automatic passenger counters are great for providing gross ridership levels, but stop-level ridership can likewise be determined with the help of automated vehicle locators and GPS systems that allow for location-specific data collection. When transit agencies are able to collect accurate ridership information, they are able to adjust routes accordingly and serve areas with the greatest ridership more frequently or dispatch more fleet to serve the same areas, hence providing better service quality for passengers.

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Benefits of Automatic Passenger Counting Systems for Public Transit

Today’s fast paced world of technology is pushing the boundaries of traditional information systems in almost every industry, including the transportation sector. Transit companies today rely on passenger information systems that provide real-time information on the status and service of their fleet. A fully deployed passenger information system is a practical addition to any mass transit operation because it provides a wealth of data that benefits not only the traveling passengers, but also the transit agency’s planners, managers, supervisors, and operators. The information that these systems offer is extremely useful in creating a safer, more efficient, streamlined transit operation that benefits everyone.

A robust passenger information system can provide a valuable archive of data on passenger count, vehicle locations, and other such information, which can help agencies to evaluate different functions and operational elements, including customer complaints and pain points, which can be instrumental during operations planning. Automated information systems are so much more than a passenger counter tool that gauges the number of passengers that use transit facilities. These systems offer many other advantages and uses such as:

  • Significant budget savings thanks to enhanced service and operational efficiency, resulting in the proper utilization of resources. Passenger information systems allow agencies to analyze data, all the way down to the individual passenger level, allowing them to determine which route segments and stops are being underutilized or underserved. This enables them to reorganize route systems and maximize the use of each vehicle, route, etc.
  • Another major benefit of automated passenger counter systems include enhancing overall transit planning efficiency, taking into account more accurate traffic patterns, time tables, routes, and other critical details that impact transit quality.
  • With automated passenger information systems, agencies and transit companies are also better able to address the most pressing passenger complaints. These systems allow companies to discern between valid concerns and complaints that are simply the result of passenger error. As a result, transportation companies are able to sort through invalid complaints and focus on real problems, bringing forth greater reliability in the transport system.
  • Automated information systems also offer the benefit of fast, real-time response to accidents and incidents, which can often mean the difference between life and death. They help transit agencies respond more quickly and efficiently to all kinds of threats, be it an emergency incident, an assault, a hijacking, and other such dangers.

 

Transign has been a constant innovator in the transit industry, providing clients with the highest quality products, cutting edge technologies, and signage/information systems for 60 years.

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