Traffic Count Alone is Not Enough

It’s all about “location, location, location.” The old saying is more important than ever for a variety of businesses that need information when evaluating potential locations prior to making a financial decision, such as:

  • Retailers and Commercial Real Estate — when evaluating an optimal site for a business
  • Outdoor advertising — matching specific advertising messaging or location with the right audience
  • Insurance companies — when understanding travel risks associated with a location ... “who is driving where”
  • Government — to hone in on details needed to support successful smart city initiatives


So what are the options for information to help make these critical financial decisions?


Traditional Traffic Count

The definition of “traffic count” doesn’t exist in Merriam-Webster dictionary … so what is it? According to Wikipedia, traffic count is “a count of vehicular or pedestrian traffic, which is conducted along a particular road, path, or intersection.” A traffic count is typically taken by automatic means by using a temporary or permanent recording device (e.g. black rubber strips that tally cars crossing), or manually by people who visually count and record traffic on a hand-held electronic device or tally sheet – as stated by the Traffic Monitoring Guide published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. Standard traffic counts usually give average daily two-way volumes at specific locations, and the tally sheet for the snapshot in time may look something like this:



Traffic count alone doesn’t provide the whole story

Let’s say that you are charged with figuring out the best locations for your business and perhaps also to understand why some stores perform worse than others. The type of business can have an impact on what kind of data you use, and also on how you process the data. Using Retail as an example, having access to non-transportation-related data would prove extremely beneficial, such as:

  • Trade Area Population — How many people are located nearby during times that your business is open, what are their characteristics and how do they align with what your business sells?  
  • Brand and Location — Is the location consistent with your brand?  Does the neighborhood and proposed location fit with what you sell and the image you are trying to convey to the market?  
  • Competition — Are the businesses located nearby complementary?  Like regional anchors, or do they compete with you?  
  • Safety — Is the proposed location safe for your employees, to transact business and to ship and receive goods?

Traditional traffic counts don’t provide the answers to these questions, but this information is critical to the success of your business.

How to make a smart location decision

In addition to traditional traffic counts, the top 5 data points to understand when making location decisions are:

  1. Traffic volumes by direction
  2. Traffic volumes by various times of day (morning, evening, off-peak, daily totals)
  3. Traffic volumes that drive nearby the selected location (in addition to the traffic in front of the location)
  4. Competitor identification – travelers going by the proposed location that pass a competitor
  5. Current data and 2-year forecast

IMPORTANT to consider: Concerning the people who pass by the location, are they interested in what you sell? 

  • Traveler demographics
    • Income
    • Household size
    • Age or stage of life
  • The motivation or reason for their travel

Not all traffic count/insight tools or data providers provide all of this information. Ensure that the vendor or resource you choose provides the information that is most relevant for your critical business decision.

Streetlytics provides smart insights into travel and the traveling consumer by merging our comprehensive database of measured traffic patterns, regional demographics, along with GPS and cell phone data – and is available in several formats to meet the needs of your business.

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