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.