Traffic Count Methodoligy/Pit falls


New member
Apr 22, 2015
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Hi all,
I've been lurking here for awhile, and I'd like to thank everyone for all the great advice that I've found on this forum. I'm still in the early stages of writing a business plan for a semi-mobile coffee stand and I'm trying to get a fix on traffic counts for my perspective location.

The location I'm looking at sits directly on a major 4 lane x 4 lane intersection at a flashing red stop which is adjacent to a middle school and high school. The corner I'm considering is on the busier side of traffic, but I feel like the location would be easy to navigate to from either direction. While counting traffic at this intersection during what I am thinking would be my peak time (7:30am-8:00am-the longest I could manage without feeling like a creep... lone, middle aged guy, sitting in is car across the street from a middle school with no obviously apparent reason to be there, lol! I plan on going back to get traffic flows at different times on different days), I relized I had 3 questions about how to arrive at the most useful number possible.

1. Due to the proximity of the school, I realized I was counting several cars twice as they were dropping off kids. Obviously this inflates the true traffic count, but it's really too busy to reliably tell which cars I have counted. Any opinions on the best way to address this?

2. It became apparent to me that a certain percentage of the traffic I was counting I wouldn't be able to rely on for business. Vehicles such as school buses, municipal vehicles like trash trucks, etc., semi trucks (there is potentially enough room for truck drivers to park and walk up to my theoretical stand, but I think this would pose greater traffic flow challenges than the extra business would merit). I would say these vehicles represent between 5-10% of the traffic I observed. Should I not count these vehicles as I'm doing research, or is this factored into the aggregate traffic capture figures that are typically used?

3. What are your opinions on the best use of traffic count numbers? I've seen most conservative figures around 1%-1.5%, but best possible numbers as high as 5%. Is there a good rule of thumb or standard high low number?

Again, I'm still in the early stages of planning, but I'd like a solid foundation as a jumping off point for my financial data. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


Super Moderator
Staff member
Feb 28, 2008
Near Philadelphia, PA
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Hello "BigLew"

Welcome to the Coffee Forums website.

We have several members of this Forum who have done traffic counts, and some of them obtained their information from their county's traffic flow records.

Hopefully, someone will respond to your questions soon.

Considering that, typically the schools in the U.S. have a 180 day school year, you could just get the traffic flow numbers for one or two days and make your calculations based on that.

Or, if you prefer to hang around outside of the middle school for a week or so, maybe you could let the school admininstrtion know what you're doing so they won't become alarmed. Do parents walk their kids to school, and possibly past the area of your intended location? Will you be doing a foot traffic count too?

I'm guessing that people in most municipal vehicles and school bus drivers probably already have their coffee on-board when they get started in the morning. If it's inconvenient for them to part their vehicle and walk to your location, they're probably won't bother to do it.

Best of luck with your research.