Counting and projecting passenger numbers reliably

MOBILEstatistics as certifiable APC back-office system

Statistically accurate passenger counts are vital for decision-making and operational activities by public transport companies. This data is also essential for performance-based revenue distribution, e.g. in transportation networks.

Revenue received from governing authorities or transportation networks depends on a transport company’s ability to prove its performance. Key impacts on performance include the number of passengers transported (statistical term: traffic volume) as well as the transport distance or mileage (statistical term: transport performance). To receive reliable values of these performance indicators, transport companies can implement INIT’s modern automatic passenger counting system, MOBILE-APC. The system’s IRMA MATRIX sensors count passengers with the utmost precision, providing accurate passenger counts for better data and reporting.

Top standards met

VDV standards and regulations are internationally recognised as some of the strictest in the world. INIT’s evaluation and statistics system, MOBILEstatistics, meets VDV standards for passenger counting projections and other evaluations. This is significant because statistical projections are key to collecting accurate performance indicators – even if sensors are installed on all vehicles in a fleet.

MOBILEstatistics adheres to VDV’s recommendations for the implementation of an Automatic Passenger Counting system (Publication/Schrift no. 457). It also takes into account TBNE (Tarifverband der Bundeseigenen und Nichtbundeseigenen Eisenbahnen in Deutschland, i. e. the Fare Association of Federal and Non-Federal Railways in Germany) specifications as well as additional regulations. MOBILEstatistics is certifiable, meaning that an independent, third-party provider can confirm its accuracy, reliability and the fact that it is in accordance with the VDV recommendations. The German transport companies, Verkehrsbetriebe Karlsruhe (VBK) and Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (AVG), are currently undergoing their systems’ third-party certifications.

The certification process includes plausibility tests (unreliable data is excluded), an examination of the accuracy of balances, and a review of the projection method used and of protective measures against manipulation. Therefore, both public transport companies and the transportation network (that requires their passenger data) are guaranteed valid passenger counts. From planning to data evaluation, the following steps are taken:

At a glance: A detailed overview in MOBILEstatistics.

Import of timetable data and sample trips

To properly evaluate passenger counts, MOBILEstatistics requires planning data. INIT’s planning and data management tool, MOBILE-PLAN, provides planning data that is examined for consistency to ensure flawless and accurate data in all its processes as well as connected systems. The planning data is imported in either the VDV 452 format or another predetermined format.

Display of the projection in MOBILEstatistics – from the averages (MW, i.e. Mittelwerte /averages) the result will be calculated, i.e. traffic volume and transport performance.

Data layering and sample trip planning

The next step is data collection, which involves data layering and sample trip planning. Layers are periods of time when passenger loads are as similar as possible. Sample trips have to be planned in a way that ensures an accurate minimum number of trips will take place in all layers. This means you would use the same route, direction, day (weekday, Saturday, Sunday, holiday), and period of time as a layer for sample trips. Trips with small differences (e.g. different platforms, one stop more or less) can be merged, according to VDV. This will enhance the sample volume and consequently the projection quality. To reliably calculate the minimum sample size, the sample trip planning module is used in MOBILEstatistics. The minimum sample size needed depends on the layering, the duration of the evaluation period, and the specified statistical reliability. A particular strength of the programme is its ability to handle train trips with changing compositions of the train sections (i.e. coupling, portion working and uncoupling). Therefore, MOBILEstatistics uses data from comparable trips on other days.

Validity and plausibility tests

The sample runs’ APC data is transferred to MOBILEstatistics and its validity – whether the trip can be considered plausible and representative – is examined there. For example, too high a difference between the number of passengers boarding and alighting inside a chain of trips will be interpreted as a technical disturbance of the sensors, and will cause the data to be excluded. What is considered ‘plausible’ can be defined (about 20 rules) and adjusted by the public transport company with the help of system parameters.

Trips with small differences (e.g. one stop more or less) can be merged in a layer.

Settlement of passenger balancing

To further improve data quality, MOBILEstatistics balances the passenger counts, i.e. it rectifies the difference between the number of people boarding and alighting. In doing so, the sensors’ low count inaccuracy is corrected according to the rules specified in the VDV publication 457.

Passenger projection according to VDV 457

After processing the data collected, passenger projection can begin. To do this, the number of transported passengers (traffic volume), together with the passenger mileage (transport performance), is projected from the valid sample trips to the whole fleet (timetable). At this point, each route’s projected values can be shown to governing authorities or a transportation network, and used by them for their revenue distribution. For a more profound data analysis, the values can also be provided with additional performance indicators for further evaluation.

With this array of functionalities, MOBILEstatistics as a certifiable APC back-office system is a reliable tool for statistically valid passenger counting. With its ability to compare planning and operational data, to plan and monitor the APC sample trips, examine validity and provide accurate reports, MOBILEstatistics allows VDV’s recommendations to be implemented quickly, safely and reliably. This provides transport companies with peace of mind when it comes to receiving the right amount of revenue.


Iwan Wiens

Head of Department