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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Not counting you

Here's a funny one: The City of Portland is going out for bid on devices that will count streetcar passengers automatically:

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation owns and operates a 3.9-mile streetcar transit system with 72 station platforms. Maintaining accurate passenger ridership information is an important aspect of system operation, as it affects funding allocation and system expansion decisions. The current passenger counts are collected manually by staff contracted to the City. The City is pursuing an automatic passenger counting system that will allow for more frequent, accurate, and low cost passenger counts.

Heck, the new machines won't have to be too rugged. On the eastside streetcar, they won't have to be able to count higher than 3.

Comments (14)

I hear TriMet has used automatic passenger counters on its MAX trains (and some of its buses) for at least 15 years now...SURELY, the City of Portland can just ask TriMet who they went with, rather than reinvent the wheel.

I will lease them my left hand (all five fingers) for $150K/yr, or both hands for $250K.

And to sweeten the pot, I'll throw in a free consultation with Yvonne Deckard.

what constitutes a rider? If I get on at OMSI and get off in PSU, is that considered one "rider"?

For $425.000.00 a year they can reach me on my cell and I would happily repeat the number I am told.

Village Idiot,

Funny that they need 72 platforms for less than 4 miles of track.that comes out to 18 so a mile. That sucker must stop all of the time. No wonder no one uses it.

How about a device that counts you when you scan your ticket and the turnstile opens? Seems pretty foolproof to me.

...using tickets or passes that get swiped as a means to count people? Somehow this whole counting thing seems better off contracted to a bunch of kids who haven't been corrupted yet.

How about a device that counts Portlanders moving to Clark County?

I've seen potential passengers (especially out-of-towners) board streetcars, sit there for ten minutes waiting for it to move, finally ask someone if they know when it may leave, they don't know, then they get off figuring they can walk the three blocks to their destination much faster. Does that count as two trips through the counter or one?

lw - good point. Likewise, someone standing at the door, letting people on/off a packed Streetcar would also get counted multiple times. I believe TriMet actually has to implement a correction factor on its APCs to account for these counting errors.

A better solution would be to used stored value cards (i.e. New York's MetroCard, London's Oyster Card, Los Angeles' TAP, Seattle's ORCA) that are swiped at each entry and exit of a transit vehicle. Of course some would argue this is big brother (of course you can just avoid the transit system and not be tracked) but the data collected would be of high value to truly understand who is going where. Much of TriMet's passenger tracking is mere speculation and guesswork.

Why are they counting passengers? The damn thing already has been built at obscenely exorbitant costs to taxpayers. If it is determined that ridership doesn't warrant existence of the mystery train, will they shut it down? Methinks not!

Pretty sure I've got enough fingers for this job.

Actually, like those mythical primitive tribes that haven't developed arithmetic, the streetcar counters will count passengers as "one, two, three, many."

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