In an effort to improve the methods of counting cars go- ing to the over-sand area of Duxbury beach, a new pilot program will be implemented this summer that will track vehicles equipped with radio frequency identification stickers.
The program was discussed by the Duxbury Beach Committee at their meeting Thursday night.
The Duxbury Beach Reservation, which owns the beach and leases both the drive-on section and residents’ parking lot to the town, plans to dis- tribute radio frequency identification, or RFID, stickers to frequent users of the over- sand beach. These small white stickers on car windshields will trigger a counter attached to a pad and cables buried 18” deep at the first cross-over. Vehicles entering and exiting the beach will be counted and this information will be sent to a secure Web site and then downloaded via software to the harbormaster’s department and to the Reservation. The systems should be in place by June.
The Reservation has paid $10,000 for equipment and a consultant for the pilot program and is hoping to hand out between 500 to 1,000 RFID stickers to volunteers who use the drive-on beach. Both resident and non-resident beach goers will be asked to participate. The stickers will be free and will be in addition to paid beach access permits.
No personal or other information will be counted by the RFID stickers.
RFID technology is used in electronic toll collection boxes, like the E-Z Passes, which are attached to car windshields. They are also used for theft prevention in the retail industry and to track goods, people and animals.
“They’re looking to test them on cars of people who come to the beach frequently so they get a lot of opportunity to see whether it works,” said Susan Rourke, Beach Committee chairman.
Other frequent travelers to the beach such as the Harbor- master’s vehicles, the piping plover monitors and Audubon officials will also have the tags attached to their cars.
The system can also tell when vehicles without stickers enter the beach. If the program is adopted in the future, the system will be able to identify a car that does not have an authorized sticker.
“It will sense when a vehicle goes over (the buried hardware) and it looks to pick up a signal from a sticker,” Bill Hartigan of the Gurnet/ Saquish Association explained. “If it doesn’t pick up a signal from a sticker, then we have an unauthorized vehicle on the beach.”
The pilot RFID program will be used in conjunction with the manual vehicle count- ing programs done by the Harbormaster’s department.
Before settling on the RFID program, the Reservation investigated a system similar to the one at the Duxbury transfer station, which uses a camera to take pictures of the license plates of vehicles entering and exiting the facility. However, the Reservation worried about how cameras would hold up at the beach, as they could be affected by things like dust, sand, and weather.
Town Manager René Read attended the Beach Committee meeting and said he approved of the idea after he and Finance Director John Madden met with Reservation representatives to learn about it.
“It seems like a great idea,” said Read. “It is innovative.”
Hartigan said the vehicle count information can be used by the town to help inform the public about beach activity; for example, the town can set up a Twitter feed on beach closings and parking restrictions.
“That’s what we think will really be helpful for non-residents,” said Read, “So they have advance notice.”
The Reservation has budgeted $25,000 for a two-year program, Rourke said.
“We’ll see how the numbers look,” said Hartigan. “If it seems to be accurate, we’ll move forward with it next year.”
The Reservation is seeking volunteers for the RFID pilot program. Anyone interested in participating can contact Jason Wolfson of the Duxbury Beach Reservation at Jason@ duxburybeach.com.