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26 November 2015
Pedestrian counting in Luzern (Switzerland)
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Organization in charge: City of Luzern (in collaboration with Urban Mobility Research, Zurich)

Population: 80,000 people (metropolitan area: 200,000 people)

Installed counters: 5 PYRO-Boxes – infrared passive sensor detecting heat micro-variations

Global context

More and more places around the world are recognizing the role of walking as a solution for health and city management. In Switzerland, proactive policies emphasize walking as a physical activity and a form of active transportation. Cities aim to raise the mode share of walking and counting systems help them to measure, plan and communicate their goals.

Automatic counting is an efficient and precise way to observe walking activity. While we are aware of manual counting options, we have observed at Eco-Counter that automatic counting allows to provide valuable information about walking activity both over a longer time and on a larger scale. This type of solid global data is often needed to enable stakeholders and decision-makers to make the investments that encourage walking.

Local context

In 2010, the City of Luzern launched its Active Transportation Plan to promote walking and cycling. Inspired by the Charter of Sustainable Urban Mobility (national guidelines to help decision-makers develop active transportation across the country), the plan set targets for each mode of travel and included many initiatives to develop alternative transportation options. To track the changes in mode share, the City needed to measure pedestrian traffic in comparison with other modes. Furthermore, the City required a counting system that would help identify possible safety conflicts.

The City of Luzern installed 5 PYRO-Boxes throughout the city to measure pedestrian traffic. The counters were located at 5 bridges (one each) leading to the city centre. All five bridges cross the Ruess River (the main river running through Luzern), however each have different configurations. Some bridges are open for pedestrians and cyclists only, while others are open to mixed traffic. Data was shared with local authorities.

Counting results

During June and July of 2012, the counters logged a daily average of 80,000 pedestrians crossing any bridges. By comparison, the average daily volume of other modes were: 40,000 cars, 33,000 bus users, and approximately 5,000 cyclists. Saturdays showed the greatest daily average of 110,000 pedestrians. Saturdays from 10am to 12pm showed the highest pedestrian activity on the bridge leading to a popular weekly market. Up to 2,600 people per hour were counted on the Rathaussteg bridge.

This data is crucial to helping the City understand how people use their public space. It also helps the City allocated funds appropriately within their transportation system.

Analysis follow-up

This data was important to help the City build a framework for rating pedestrian activity – a scoring system ranging from A to F. A score of “A” represents an empty street and “F” represents an environment where it is difficult to walk without disturbance.

The pedestrian activity was rated for each of the bridges. At three out of the five, the score was “D” which equates to a pedestrian flow between 1,000 and 2,000 people per hour.  These scores provide insight to the existing levels of saturation and can helps City staff better understand for the impact of further promotion for walking to its infrastructure.

Limitations and Opportunities for further study

The PYRO-Box uses an infrared technology, which presents a few challenges. During heatwaves, it can be difficult for the sensor to detect minor heat variations. Pedestrians who stop in front of the counter can “blur” the detection process. Both these cases can affect the counts that are registered. As the PYRO-Box counts people by body heat, it does not differentiate between a pedestrian and a cyclist riding on the sidewalk or someone on a skateboard. If the aim it to monitor pedestrians, it is important to place this counter on pedestrian-only route and mount it on a fix wall or post.

On a global scale, this case study is a strong introduction to pedestrian flow towards a city centre. More useful information can be gained from studies that examine a longer period beyond 2 months. For example in this case, these summer months included many special events (Luzernerfest, Blue Balls Festival, etc.). These types of events could also have an effect on the average daily patterns. On-going counting with the City of Luzerne has been useful afterwards to further evaluate the impact and outcomes of the Active Transportation Plan.

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