| 03.19.2018

Counting the alternatives

Collecting data on any subject can be difficult, but volunteers for the City of Moscow sponsored event iCount assisted in the collection of information on residents’ use of alternative transportation and made the task a little less daunting.

On Thursday, the volunteers counted the number of Moscow residents who travel by means such as walking or biking and recorded it for the city’s use. Volunteers counted at two different times, from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.

Volunteer Tracy Spencer, a University of Idaho senior, said this was her first year with iCount. She said volunteering was fun and a great way to become a part of Moscow’s promotion of sustainability and transportation alternatives.

“It’s been pretty fun,” Spencer said. “It’s a great way to get involved and help out your community.”

ICount is coordinated by the Active Living Task Force and supported by the University of Idaho, Gritman Medical Center, Department of Health and Welfare, North Central District Health Department and Idaho Smart Growth.

Sustain ability intern Keaghan Caldwell said iCount counts pedestrians, bicyclists and other modes of alternative transportation– which includes skateboarders and
roller bladers.

“And then that informations used for transportation services,” Caldwell said. “It’s used to kind of show the city the impacts of active living. And it goes all into a program that is developed to show the flow of traffic from what areas of the city and who’s going where at given days.”

Caldwell said the event was purely observational. Volunteers observed intersections with the highest flows of traffic.

“So, we have 18 points, intersections, across the city that we are highly interested in,” Caldwell said. “And then, we have a handful of other intersections that if we have enough volunteers we’ll station at. But, those 18 are our primary, and those are going to be your Third and Sixth Street on Jackson, Washington and Main Street and then there’s a couple on Mountain View, and there’s a few others. Those are our main priorities, because those are the highest flow of traffic during our two observation sections.”

Caldwell said volunteers fill out a series of eight forms in tracking the directionality of the people they observe. The information collected is then filed into a report for the city.

“The data is accumulated into a report that shows during these two high traffic time periods in the day where a majority of people are,” Caldwell said. “And so, that information can be used.  One to show active living communities what the benefits of are walking and biking through representation of how many other people are doing it. But it also gives us the ability to integrate it into some of our transportation decisions for the city.”

Michael Lowry, assistant professor of civil engineering, created the forms and has been involved with the program since it began three years ago. Lowry takes the information collected from the count, enters it into a database and maps it for the city’s use.

Lowry said the count is taken for a host of reasons.

“One, to help us (the city of Moscow) with our grants,” Lowry said. “Two, to use the data so the city can use it. Three, is the citizen engagement.”

Lowry said the citizen engagement is especially important, as it acts as an outlet to get others interested in alternative transportation. Lowry said this is where iCount has been
truly successful.

“There’s people that are getting involved with bicycle and pedestrian that want to get involved and they don’t know how. And this is sort of an outlet for engagement with the community for the city to sort of get people interested in bike and ped., to come and to recognize needs,” Lowry said. “There’s more to it than just the data itself.”

Volunteer Phil Cook, a research associate for UI’s College of Natural Resources, said he has been volunteering since iCount began three years ago and hopes it will continue.

“I hope we continue to have the resources to do it in the future, because I think it’s a really valuable planning tool for the city,” Cook said.

Lowry emphasized the importance of the event.

“It’s an outlet for trying to say, ‘Biking and walking matter to me,'” Lowry said.


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