You want me to do what? I got a civil engineering degree from a top Big Ten University and you want me to run a hose across a road in traffic and pound it down with nails?
I didn't say these things, but they ran through my mind as I was a raw EIT thrown into setting tube counters on my first job at a regional 500+ person municipal engineering firm. It got worse when I was given a Jamar count board and taught to do turning movement counts. Especially the 6 am to 6 pm TMC with only a lunch break. Todd the PE was hazing me.
At Bonestroo (later Stantec) I worked on traffic signal designs, street lighting designs, corridor studies, city comprehensive transportation plans, signing plans, and traffic impact studies and did most of the counts for the traffic engineering group.
Life at the City
When I moved on to the City of Maple Grove staff as their traffic engineer, I collected ADTs for statewide reporting and did speed studies to address citizen requests (I was the complaint department). It seems I was meant to be in the traffic counting industry.
At the 1996 ITE Annual Meeting, I learned there were firms on the coasts that specialized in traffic counting, but there wasn't a data collection firm in Minnesota. The agencies and consulting firms did their own counts. Going to ITE Annual Meetings planted the idea that I could start a side business doing traffic counts.
Going into Business
Traffic Data Inc. was born in February 2001. I bought a few used tube counters/ATRs and count boards from Jamar and convinced a few friends to outsource their counting to me instead of doing them in-house. I did get the city engineer's permission to start the business – I couldn't afford to lose my job with Jane staying home with our first child, Maria.
Once I got some traction, I left the City of Maple Grove in 2002 to work for myself. I layered on traffic studies and signal design consulting. I was a scrappy entrepreneur with a small team of retirees helping me with counts part-time.
The Allure of Video
I was one of Miovision's first customers in 2008. Mobilizing crews to be out to a site at 6:30 am was unpleasant and I was intrigued that I could install cameras mid-morning instead. Unfortunately, I quickly realized almost all my profit went to Miovision with their fees. Those crafty private-equity-backed guys!
I was also frustrated with the high failure rate with the Miovision camera system. So, like all promising entrepreneurs, I went to my garage and started tinkering. I came up with the first countCAM based on a security camera system and a car battery. We recorded mpg video files at intersections and counted the cars from the video using our Jamar boards. It was luxurious to count in the comfort of our office during regular business hours, even though it was dull watching traffic crawl across the screen at 1x speed.
I try a lot of new things in my business and I started blogging at MikeOnTraffic in 2007. Don Gettner heard of me and called with the countPAD/countPRO concept that allowed variable speed counting - counting accurately at 3 to 6x speed – yes please!
I dove into the early days of e-commerce and set up a store in 2010 to sell an early version of the countCAM and Don's countPADs. We also ended up distributing tube counters manufactured by Vehicle Counts.
Over the next decade, my team built up the counting service business in the Midwest, a consulting business with six traffic engineers, and a global traffic counting hardware/software e-commerce business. We operated these divisions all under Spack Solutions to harness the "synergy" of our business units. It was working, with 3,000+ clients across more than 70 countries and every state in America.
Focus on Traffic Counting Tools
Then the Covid 19 pandemic struck. Our revenue fell by 75% overnight!
I was scrambling to stay in business and had to furlough most of my staff. I realized I needed to concentrate on our unique ability. I sold off the consulting business and the traffic counting service business to focus on our traffic counting hardware/software systems.
There are a lot of traffic engineers in the world doing signal design and traffic impact studies, but I am uniquely qualified to build the safe, cost-effective portable traffic counting systems our industry deserves.
During the pandemic, we spent our time creating the countCAM3, launching the countSTICK, and refining countCLOUD. Coming out of the pandemic, we've combined the countCAM3 and countSTICK into a single countCAM3+ to provide a complete traffic counting solution: a video recording system for turning movement counts + an automated "tubeless tube counter" for collecting ADTs.
All this work fulfills my responsibility as a licensed engineer and PTOE, which leads Spack Solutions' to our purpose of helping tame congestion and eliminate traffic fatalities. We accomplish this purpose by providing a traffic counting solution that saves government agencies (along with their engineering consultants and data collection firms) significant money so they can do more while keeping their staff safely off the street.
I love to be helpful - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about traffic engineering, traffic counting, or our hardware/software solutions (or if you need some pickleball pointers). And of course, our online store is open 24/7 to take your order!
Spack Solutions engineering expertise is recognized and certified by agencies across the country. Like you, our staff has worked as professionals collecting traffic data within consulting firms, data collection firms, and public agencies.
Professional Traffic Operations Engineer®
Roadway Safety Professional®
Licensed Professional Engineer
Entrepreneurial Operating System
Spack Solutions can help with the expert guidance you deserve and the proven processes you need so you can tackle every project with confidence.