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Technology to Improve upon APC Data Counting that will Provide Better Correlation to Service Plan


Transit agencies traditionally face major issues in rider system utilization and travel patterns.

First, it has been a challenge to accurately count the number of riders that board and alight along stops or stations on a transit route.  In the vast majority of transit agencies, this has been traditionally accomplished through “ride checking;” a manual process of counting riders with pen, paper, and punch counters while riding a transit vehicle (most often a bus) in revenue service.  Once collected, these data must be manually input into a database and then verified for accuracy to have meaning to the transit agency for planning purposes.


A few transit agencies use advanced methods to count riders using a technology called Automated Passenger Counters or APCs.  APCs remove the need to manually count boarding or alighting riders by using a variety of different technologies to include infra-red beams, treadle mats, visioning, heat sensors, low-frequency ultrasound waves, and other technologies working in tandem with a software-based heuristic algorithm. Typically, these data are automatically downloaded to a database system or the data are removed using storage media such as a Flash Drive and then imported to a database for automatic, pre-set analysis and report generation.


Once collected by APCs, these boarding and alighting data are usually correlated with data from an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system or other geographic information systems or GIS file such as a bus stop inventory to match boardings and alightings with the specific, fixed, geographic location of a transit stop or station.  Historically, APCs have proven useful to transit agencies for collecting rider boardings and alightings, but APC systems have suffered counting accuracy issues, particularly at high rider load points, and at end-of-line count reconciliation.  APCs are mostly used on transit bus front and rear doors with limited use on rail vehicles due to very wide doors; another issue that most APC system technology have been unable to solve.

Second, it has been a challenge for transit agencies to track the origin and destination of riders.  In only a few cases transit agencies have the ability to accurately and, anonymously, track the origins and destinations of riders; this mostly occurs in a closed turnstile/gated system used by rail transit.  Traditionally, tracking the origin and destination of riders has been done using labor intensive and costly origin and destination surveys, usually using only small sample of riders.  These surveys are usually not directly correlated with rider boardings and alightings.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is seeking exploratory proposals that will demonstrate innovative, economic, accurate, and durable technologies, devices, or solutions to improve rider boarding and alighting counting accuracy and rider origin-destination trip-making accuracy, with special attention given to projects that could significantly improve both the accuracy of this information and correlate them with rider origins and destinations.

Project proposals must include a methodology on how it will use data to quantitatively demonstrate that their recommended technology innovations can provide this capability.

Expected Phase I Outcomes:

  • A viable concept that demonstrates the technology or solution in a transit environment to improve rider boarding and alighting count accuracy and the accurate tracking of rider origins and destinations
  • Efficient and low-cost technology
  • Modular, interoperable, plug-and-play and open source (if applicable) device(s)
  • Technology assessment with respect to industry best practices
  • Feasibility analysis (data proven) for success in developing a working prototype


Expected Phase II Outcomes:

Phase II efforts include manufacturing and demonstrating a working prototype of the technology and device or solution with all of the above listed Phase I outcomes.



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