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Ridership data is the pillar that transit agencies rely on to serve their community.

Knowing which routes to expand, where to add stops, and informing passengers of crowding ahead of time optimize the rider experience and agency resources. If ridership data is inaccurate or unknown, then the health of the transit agency is at risk, which can severely reduce the amount of funding received. That’s why more and more agencies are looking to certify their automatic passenger counters (APCs) with TransTrack APC software and our qualified NTD statistician.


APCs revolutionized the way transit agencies track ridership. Now, electronic sensors or cameras track boarding and alighting activities based on motion versus inefficient manual sampling methods. With APCs, transit agencies bypass the cost of staff time spent riding the bus, counting the data, matching manual data to the cleansed sensor data, and being stalled by ineffective processes when sampling sheets are lost or inaccurate. Although the data collected by APCs is richer and more precise, raw APC data must still be cleansed before it’s ready for aggregation and NTD reporting. Learn more about our APC Module, which uses proprietary data cleansing and expansion methods to attain federal APC Certification and simplify NTD ridership reporting for your transit agency.

Why APC Certification Is Necessary

Data Accuracy

APCs gather a wealth of information like average peak load, 95th percentile value of peak load, and stop-level boarding. However, completed trip information can be missing or include errors. Operator actions, passenger hesitation, doorway transactions, plus inaccurate or non-functioning sensors are variables that can cause these discrepancies. Certification ensures that you’ve taken the right steps to correct inaccuracies.

Statistical Significance

Estimates like aggregated ridership or passenger miles traveled are based off of APC data. During certification, an NTD Qualified Statistician will need to support whichever data processing methodology you use to confirm that the cleansed and expanded data is verified for statistical significance. That way, you can rely on ridership estimates for future planning.

NTD Reporting

The NTD states that “APC data should be processed to correct for anomalies” in addition to other sampling requirements. Before using cleansed APC data for NTD reporting, it has to be certified by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for reporting unlinked passenger trips (UPT), passenger miles traveled (PMT), or both. Certification will help you make the most return out of your APC system since having the system without using it for reporting is a missed opportunity.


Certified APC ridership data will confidently guide transit agency decisions and boost standing within your community. You’ll be able to:

  • Optimize routes based on passenger load to reduce crowding and increase satisfaction
  • Intelligently communicate with elected officials to advocate for your transit agency
  • Include fare-free riders in your numbers, which is more important than ever because of Covid

The APC Certification Process for NTD Reporting

Your transit agency must attain APC Certification in the following scenarios according to the NTD Sampling Manual:

“You must meet this requirement of getting FTA certification for the first report year for which you use your APC data for NTD reporting, any mandatory recertification year (FY2022, FY2025, FY2028, etc.), and any other year during which you install new and substantially different APC equipment,” states Dr. Xuehao Chu, developer of the NTD Sampling Manual and a qualified statistician for NTD reporting.

Ultimately, there are six main steps to get APC certified:

  1. Cleanse Raw APC Data
    Whichever method you use, it must meet NTD’s validation requirements, be used for the next three reporting years for consistency, and be flexible enough to accommodate special case adjustments.
  2. Validate the APC Data
    The FTA has to certify that your APC system is validated for reporting UPT, PMT, or both. This includes a ride-check survey that has to meet the cleansed APC data within a 5% variance.
  3. Develop Expansion Methods
    For trips that are without APC hardware or don’t have raw or cleansed APC data, an expansion method will “fill the gap” to more precisely measure ridership KPIs like monthly total UPT, annual total UPT and PMT, and annual daily average UPT and PMT by schedule type.
  4. Certify the Expansion Method for Annual Totals
    A qualified statistician who’s knowledgeable in transit rider measurement needs to certify the expansion method you use, again keeping in mind the flexibility of the method for future service changes.
  5. Implement the Cleansing and Expansion Methods
    There are a few ways to implement the approved methods, like a spreadsheet, SQL script, or transit software. Depending on the size and resources of your transit agency, using software saves time since it automatically imports APC data and applies cleansing and expansion.
  6. Maintain the APC System
    For best results, integrate regular maintenance into your data management to identify problems, troubleshoot expelled data, and act before losing valuable APC information from faulty hardware.
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Easily Certify Your APC with TransTrack’s APC Software Module

Never worry about getting APC certified or completing NTD reporting again with TransTrack’s APC Module, which offers customized data cleansing and expansion methods, the support of an NTD qualified statistician, and an easy-to-use interface.

How the APC Module Works

The APC Module seamlessly imports and consolidates data from multiple APC, AVL, and GFI sources. Guided by recommendations from our in-house NTD qualified statistician and your specifications, the module will automatically cleanse your data. You can customize to a granular level down to individual bus stops, passenger boarding and alighting patterns, and bus load profiling. We provide full transparency into how the data is cleansed and expanded so stakeholders clearly understand how APC data is managed.

Streamline Ride Sampling with the Ridecheck App

As part of the APC Certification process, a ride sample must match the APC cleansed data within 5% variance. Our Ridecheck app eliminates paper, redundant entries, and automatically imports scheduled trip information. After a trip is completed, the app exports data into the TransTrack system for easy tracking and variance reporting. 

Reports and Analytics

TransTrack consolidates all of the information you need for NTD reporting. With over 270 canned reports and hundreds of measurable metrics, here are some items you can quickly access and share with other stakeholders:

  • Daily APC Ridership Data: See each stop’s loading and alighting activity, active trip load, and any APC hardware error types, which are automatically emailed to the maintenance team for calibration. 
  • Executive Management Report: See three-year trends and filter by fare or program type, route, passengers, passengers per revenue mile, passengers per revenue hour, farebox recovery ratio, and operating costs per passenger.
  • Route Plan Data: Prepare an ideal calendar and ensure there’s no missed service.
  • Daily Activity Sheet: View actual daily activity since TransTrack automatically subtracts missed routes for reporting.
  • Ridership Report: Includes route and day of the month level detail.
  • Monthly Service Reconciliation Report: See route revenue hours, calendar days, and actual revenue hours to spot errors that need adjusting.

With these ridership insights, your transit agency can improve its service by identifying stop effectiveness and learning more about your rider patterns. Tracking is highly flexible since the TransTrack Module allows for manual special events to be added separately from an imported source, plus it integrates with demand response scheduling software for an even more comprehensive view.

Expert Service

The TransTrack APC Module is built by transit professionals for transit professionals. With over 20 years of industry experience, you can get the support you need to make better decisions with better data.

Start APC Certification and Prepare for NTD Reporting

Use the TransTrack APC Module to feel confident that your APC data is properly cleansed, expanded, and approved for NTD reporting. Get a demo from the TransTrack team today!


Do I need APCs on all of the vehicles for certification? 

No. Agencies can easily be APC certified with as low as 40% APC deployment on the fleet. Our process samples your APC data across the whole service area over time, identifying ridership patterns and making practical applications of your APC hardware. 

Is it a year-long process to get certified? 

No. APC Certification can be completed in as little as six months if you are already collecting some APC data today. 

We have multiple APC models on our fleet. Does this matter? 

No. We can certify a fleet with various APC models as long as the data is readily available.

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