As students were all moved in the Saturday before classes started, at least 16,000 people made their way to State Street for the Taste of Madison and the Dane County Farmers’ Market.
That’s three times higher than the foot traffic State Street sees on an average day: 5,000 people.
That type of data wasn’t easily gathered until the city started installing trackers on the street a couple of years ago. The city’s bicycle counters are tall, totem-shaped data collectors with green numbers tracking the amount of bicycles that pass the location.
“There’s use for data in particular high traffic locations,” Ross said. “We’re trying to add more counters all the time, particularly for bicycling.”
It’s not that the city of Madison never had data on the amount of bicycles, motor vehicles and pedestrians on its streets and sidewalks. But before, a person would have to physically count and record such traffic, said Arthur Ross, the city’s pedestrian-bicycle coordinator.
To collect the data on the bike trails, the city uses Eco-TOTEM, the real-time bicycle counters. Eco-Counter, who makes the counters, uses ZELT loops systems which can count bikes on surfaces like bike lanes or mixed traffic roads and accurately detect only bicycles.
According to its website, Eco-Counter’s ZELT loops can precisely analyze the electromagnetic signature of each bicycle wheel and detect all types of bicycles including carbon and aluminum frames.
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Ross said the technology is fairly new to Madison. He said some of the counters will track numbers monthly while others track on a seasonal basis.
“The visual counters are great because it’s a reminder not just for people bicycling, but people driving by,” Ross said. “You see those and hey! There’s a lot of bicyclists in this community.”
According to the data collected through the bicycle counter systems, the bicycle counter on the Southwest Commuter Path at Monroe Street has a daily average of 1072 bicycles. On the Capital City Trail at North Shore Drive there are approximately 1796 bicyclists daily.
Ross said the counters are particularly useful for businesses around the area so they can see how much foot traffic goes by on a day-to-day basis.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the business community is interested in the bicycle counts because high numbers could encourage more stores to open in the State Street or Capitol Square areas.
“I do hope that we can expand the project and get more firm data, more scientific data that shows the fact that State Street and other streets downtown are significant for pedestrian traffic,” Verveer said. “I think that will encourage more businesses to come downtown.”
Ross said the counter data can be used to see how pattens change in different seasons, which could help the city with planning.
Verveer said he is hoping to get funding in the next city budget to purchase more counters for downtown. He said in a perfect world, every block on State Street would have a counter, but it might not be feasible because you need a decent amount of space and there can’t be obstructions like sidewalk cafes.
He said he would like to see data on pedestrians closer to campus end of State Street.
“I think it will be a useful tool to have that information collected and compiled in a scientific way to prove that that’s the case, that the State Street area and greater downtown is a very popular place to live, work and play,” Verveer said.