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7 Chapter One Introduction PROJECT BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES TECHNICAL APPROACH TCRP Synthesis 29: Passenger Counting Technologies and The approach to this synthesis included a literature review, a Procedures, published in 1998, summarized information survey of transit agencies, and telephone interviews with six from selected transit agencies regarding the benefits and pit- agencies selected as case studies. A Transportation Research falls associated with various passenger counting technolo- Information Services search was conducted to aid the litera- gies, as reported by users. The synthesis provided advice for ture review. agencies considering automatic passenger counter (APC) systems. At that time, manual passenger counting was the The survey on passenger counting technologies was most prevalent technique in the transit industry. designed to elicit information on automated technologies. At the time of the last synthesis, manual data collection was Since that time, improved technologies for boardings and the most common means of gathering information on rider- alightings counts, reliable location detection, and data pro- ship. Over the past 10 years, use of APCs has become more cessing have entered the passenger counting marketplace. common. Manual passenger counting was well documented The use of APC technology has increased among transit in the previous synthesis; therefore, this synthesis focuses on agencies of all sizes, often in conjunction with automated the state of the practice for nonmanual passenger counting vehicle location systems, improved fare collection systems, systems, particularly APC systems. and the use of geographic information systems as an ana- lytical tool. One result has been improved timeliness and Once finalized by the panel, the survey was posted and reliability (because it is drawn from a larger sample) of the pretested by panel members and selected transit agencies. The ridership data, which in turn has encouraged agencies to rely pretest resulted in minor changes to survey logic and flow. on and make greater use of the data. The sampling plan involved a "core" sample of transit The purpose of this synthesis is to document the state agencies that have active passenger counting programs, of the practice in terms of analytical tools and technologies have participated in similar studies, and have implemented for collecting transit ridership and other subsidiary data. or are considering APC systems. The core sample included Results of a web-based survey of a cross-section of transit 56 agencies. The project manager sent an e-mail with an agencies in North America document tools and technologies attachment from the TCRP program manager explaining the used to count passenger boardings and alightings. Survey importance of the survey and a link to the online survey site results include transit agency assessments of the effective- to each of the 56 agencies. In most cases, a known contact ness and reliability of their methodologies and of desired had been identified; otherwise, the e-mail was sent to the improvements. The survey was designed to emphasize APC planning director or the general manager with a request to systems, but agencies using manual systems were also sur- forward the message to the most appropriate staff member. veyed to gain an understanding of why new technologies Follow-up e-mails were sent approximately 2 and 4 weeks have not been adopted. after the original contact to encourage response. This report includes a review of the relevant literature in To guard against missing any agencies that are making the field, concentrating on material published since TCRP interesting use of APCs and to ensure a broader sample, Synthesis 29 in 1998. A final important element of this syn- an identical e-mail message was sent to all APTA transit thesis is the chapter documenting case studies, based on agency members inviting their participation in the survey. interviews with key personnel at selected agencies, to profile These agencies did not receive follow-up e-mails because of innovative and successful practices and to explore ongoing the sheer number of agencies. issues. Findings from all of these efforts are combined to summarize lessons learned, gaps in information and knowl- Forty-one completed surveys were received from the 56 edge, and research needs. transit agencies in the core sample, a response rate of 73%.