Traffic Counting

Guide to Traffic Counting

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and other government agencies around the country conduct traffic counting on a regular basis to make intelligent decisions when completing city planning projects.

Any community that wants to function at a high level must pay attention to their level of traffic. The goal of counting traffic is to find out how people use transportation systems and their preferred routes. Gathering this information is important to developing a sound infrastructure for the community.

Tracking the Pavement

One of the most important uses of a traffic counter is to monitor traffic on the road. Prioritizing the roads needed for maintenance is essential for keeping a balanced city budget. It’s important to try to deal with problem areas and congestion before they become major issues. The process of expanding a highway or freeway is expensive. It also takes a lot of time, puts workers at risk and frustrates drivers who are trying to get to work on time.

The Highway Data Services Bureau in New York continually monitors the state’s roads. Creating a website for your own community and making the information available publicly can help to spur businesses and increase your community’s wealth and happiness.

Watching Our Businesses

Some businesses may draw significant levels of traffic. Traffic counting can help gauge interest in an area. The data obtained can be used to widen roads in areas of high congestion. When one business begins to draw traffic, other companies will flock to the area in an effort to benefit from the traffic surge. City officials can gain an improved understanding of a particular area through the use of traffic counters.

According to CitiLabs, traffic data isn’t enough. You also need to know why the location affects a business. Some examples of non-transportation related date include:

  • The number of people located near a business.
  • The personality and habits of the community in a particular traffic area.
  • Whether competing businesses are fighting for customers on the same block.
  • The relative safety of the area and any crime considerations.

It’s Not All About Vehicles

Every aspect of traffic needs to be accounted for in a community. Foot traffic can be just as problematic as street traffic. Placing highly sensitive electronic tracking devices in key areas can alert officials to any problem areas. For a community that wants to reduce its reliance on vehicles as the main form a transportation, monitoring foot traffic is crucial.

Types of Counting Devices

In most cases, a traffic counter is going to be in the form of an electronic device. The sheer volume of traffic is important when counting traffic. Knowing how different areas of a community move helps to build a greater picture of how businesses can be set up to spread traffic more evenly across the city or town. More traffic brings more investors, business and income, but it can also contribute to higher levels of pollution and noise.

Dr. Brian Slack notes several different types of traffic counting devices:

  • Bending plates can be used to measure vehicle axle rate and speed.
  • Pneumatic road tubes are placed across the road to record the number of vehicles passing over.
  • A piezo-electric sensor is an electronic counter that measures weight and speed.
  • Magnetic loops relay information to a nearby counting device.

Getting Cozy With Your Citizens

Counting traffic helps to provide a detailed analysis of the health and activity of your community. With tested counting techniques, you can get an understanding of your population’s habits. This also helps to serve a law enforcement role since unusual activity can be monitored and investigated for any potential criminal activity.