Automated Passenger Counters (APCs) track key metrics related to passenger counts, including the number of unlinked passenger trips (UPT) and passenger miles traveled (PMT) for each vehicle they are installed in.
The data collected through APCs can help agencies gain insight into rider behavior, identify unproductive stops and save on fuel expenses. But another good reason to invest in APCs is because they can speed up the NTD reporting process and reduce the manpower needed to produce accurate data.
Until recently, the APC data certification process was rather time consuming and required frequent benchmarking surveys. Good news! Changes to the certification process published in the 2017 NTD policy manual now make it much more convenient for agencies to certify data gathered from APCs for use in NTD reporting.
Previously, the certification process required validation of the APC data against a separate manual sample covering a full year before they could be validated.
Now, there is no minimum amount of time that data must be collected for. This means that agencies can have their APC data certified much quicker; on average, within a month!
Previously, agencies needed to benchmark their data with surveys once per year.
Now, agencies only need to start benchmarking data once every three years. The next benchmark survey is not required until 2019, and this applies to all agencies.
Previously, agencies were required to use a sample of at least 100 trips, regardless of size of fleet.
Now, the requirements vary depending on size of fleet, but nobody is required to sample any more than qualifying 50 trips. Agencies with greater than 30 vehicles must collect valid data from a sample of, at least, the larger of 15 trips or half of the number of APC equipped vehicles, up to a maximum of 50 trips.
The FTA does not require that a certain percentage of vehicles must be equipped with APCs in order to have the data certified. What is important, is that regulations are followed, such as including all vehicle models and some heavily loaded trips within the sample. Agencies with APCs on only a small percentage of the fleet, can move buses to different routes to capture the necessary data.
TripSpark cannot certify the APC devices we use in our solution and neither can any other vendor. The devices themselves cannot be certified; it is the data that they produce that can be. Agencies must undertake proper validation procedures and the discrepancy between APC and manual count data must be less than 5% for greater than 50% of trips. The IRIS Irma APC device we use in our solution is guaranteed to be at least 96% accurate regardless of environmental conditions.
Agencies can work with their APC vendor to get the in-vehicle technology and accompanying software set up correctly. Though knowledgeable vendors can help you through the certification process, remember that no vendor can sell you NTD certified APCs.