PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - Thousands of people use the Pinellas trail each year; some for fitness, some for leisure and some for commuting.
Now Pinellas county officials are using some high tech equipment to monitor that usage.
If you're on the trail and traveling down it, you'll probably never know that they're there.
Every day, people using the Pinellas Trail are likely to pass by one of these inconspicuous white posts. It may not look like much, but it’s keeping tabs on what kind of traffic is on the trail.
"And it has a wire sensor that goes out into the trail that will count the bicycles; it'll detect the metal. And it also has an infrared sensor on it that'll count the people and things going by," said Pat McGory of Pinellas County.
Those tiny infrared sensors are capable of determining whether someone is running or walking; and the in-ground sensors that detect bicycles are providing valuable data that can spot trends in usage.
"It's great because it save us a lot of time and money on not having somebody out here with a manual clicker or with a clipboard and having to count people. It's more accurate, " McGory said.
No photographs or personally identifiable information is collected. But the data can be used to help pinpoint the need for amenities such as additional water stations, benches and signage. The information can also be valuable to support requests for grant money for upgrades.
"Anything that can improve the trail. This is one of the best trails in the United States as it is. And if you can make it even better, that would be great. You know, more rest areas, more water fountains," said Mike Meere, who uses the trail.
There are several permanent counters in place as well as two portable units.
"I think it's a great idea. If anything can make the trail better and show the traffic that so many people use this, I think it would be great for everybody. It's a win-win for everyone," said Ed Thornill, another trail user.
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