Benches in metropolitan areas are fairly common, but not some of the ones that are popping up around Boston, Jersey City and Austin. According to the Governing website, as part of a pilot program, “smart benches” are being installed that use solar panels to charge mobile devices and they include sensors that collect and share data with area government agencies.

For instance, record heat and noise levels and count passing pedestrian foot traffic. In Spokane we do an annual bike and pedestrian count. Imagine if we could just plop these benches in the area where the counts usually take place and let them do the work for us.

So why would we care about a bench that can count pedestrians? It can help justify projects that improve conditions for walkers. The data gathered can also be used when applying for grants to pay for those projects. And there’s an economic aspect. If you can show potential new businesses an area of high foot traffic, they may be inclined to move to the area.

One drawback though is the price. A standard bench is between $2,000-$3,000. These smart benches start around $4,000 and can go way up from there. 

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