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APC: Automatic Passenger Counting - How it Works

A data acquisition system can automatically count passengers on buses, trains and light rail networks.

There are several methods to do this, but the most accurate and versatile is video passenger counting. These systems log numbers of people getting on and off at each stop or station and are over 98% accurate. Compare this to manual passenger counting where counts are out by an average of 15%1.


Another advantage of such a counting system is that information can be made available in real-time over the Internet-of-Things, often as part of a Smart City setup.

Automatic passenger counting on metro

How it Works

Passenger counting works by having a camera over each door. This is linked to a counting unit running a software algorithm which detects entries and exits. An embedded video server lets users view live video footage alongside the people counts, so they can accurately verify, and configure, the system over the internet. Once set up, the counts alone are sent over the network to save bandwidth. Counts can also be stored locally.

Fine-tuning the Video Analytics

The video analytics can be fine-tuned in software during the configuration phase. For example, settings can be adjusted for shadows or poor light. Software also lets users set the time period over which counts are accumulated - down to every 5 minutes.

Occupancy and Location of Public Transport

An automated passenger counting system (APC) provides reliable data at a low cost, no matter how busy the service.

An APC system on its own provides valuable information, but when you add vehicle tracking you can see where a bus or train is as well as how many people are on it.

Validating the Data

With CCTV counting operators can simply watch the video back - which shows both people getting on and off the vehicle together with the increasing counts - and thus verify that the system is counting properly. Transit agencies can thus have complete confidence in the passenger data they are receiving. The passenger count data can be easily integrated into existing database systems.

More Information

For more information on automated passenger counting see the Retail Sensing or Urban Sensing web sites, or contact us.