Kings Park is one of the world’s largest inner-city parks. It covers 400.6 hectares – that’s 25% larger than New York’s Central Park – with six separate vehicle entrances.

Being free to enter and open to the public 24/7, the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA), initially struggled to find an effective way of monitoring visitor numbers.

Vehicle count and classification for visitor numbers

They approached MetroCount in 1997 to provide a solution for monitoring vehicles at each entrance to Kings Park. The main requirement was to count each vehicle with extreme accuracy all day, every day.

Vehicle occupancy factors would then be applied by the BGPA depending on the day of the week and which park entrance the vehicle entered at (based on previous occupancy surveys).

Australia’s ARX Classification Scheme
Australia’s ARX Classification Scheme

MetroCount recommended using the RoadPod® VT portable pneumatic tube classifier because it records every single axle passing the sensors, even when travelling at low speeds. Each axle hit is time-stamped to millisecond precision and, depending on the formation and distances between axles, vehicle type can be reliably determined based on local classification schemes.

If required, the BGPA would be able to use the ARX classification scheme to differentiate vehicles into 12 separate classes including bicycles, cars, short vehicles towing trailers, trucks, buses and large articulated vehicles.

Monitoring park entries with pneumatic tubes from 1997

For over a decade BGPA successfully employed the use of pneumatic tubes to collect the data required. The data allows the BGPA to understand visitor trends and make informed decisions on issues such as how to manage traffic and parking during events held within the park.

Upgrading to remote data delivery in 2018

In 2011 BGPA started looking into permanent solutions for monitoring Kings Park’s entrances as well as outsourcing data validation, analysis and delivery.

The RoadPod VL was considered a potential solution.
The RoadPod VL was considered a potential solution.

The RoadPod® VL inductive loop system was considered as a possible solution. However, although the sensors are permanently embedded into the road surface, they aren’t as accurate as pneumatic tubes at detecting vehicles moving at low speeds.

The BGPA instead decided to install MetroCount’s new RoadPod® VP system (see photos above). This would provide the same axle detail as the RoadPod VT and the same accuracy, independent of vehicle speeds.

RoadPod VP systems were installed at all six entrances to Kings Park in 2018 and improved the data collection and analysis process dramatically for a few reasons:

  • No requirement to continually check and maintain tube sensors.
  • Discreet sensors that are invisible to road users.
  • Remote data delivery including data validation and customised reporting by MetroCount.
  • Automatic notifications of anomalies to investigate potential issues in a timely manner.

2020: COVID and resurfacing works

before and after

In 2020 Main Roads Western Australia decided to resurface some roads within the park to improve road conditions.

For the entrance located on Poole Avenue, this meant resurfacing the bumpy, cracked chip-seal road with a bitumen surface. A pneumatic tube monitoring system with remote access was installed temporarily to ensure data continuity while the new road surface set.

This ensured there were no data gaps during a critical moment in history – the global coronavirus pandemic.

before and after 2

Vehicle visitor numbers dropped drastically during March and April 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Entrances close to cafés and gyms saw the greatest reduction in visitors.

Interestingly, visitor volumes started returning to normal in May at most entrances! At Fraser Avenue, the Park’s main entrance, May 2020 visitors numbers even exceeding those from May 2019! This data reflects the relatively low levels of COVID cases in Western Australia and the need for locals to get out and about after weeks of being couped up studying or working from home.

Return to normal?

In May 2020, the permanent RoadPod VP system was successfully re-installed on Poole Avenue once the new road surface had set. The BGPA continues to receive monthly reports from MetroCount.

It will be interesting to see how visitor numbers are affected long-term by the coronavirus pandemic. An extended drop in international tourists to Australia may have a big impact on how many people visit Kings Park this summer. But then again, locals seem to be getting out and about in nature like never before.

Only time will tell as the RoadPod VP systems continue to count.

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