Sunday, February 19, 2006
Are You Among The Counted?
This story in the North County Times about a San Francisco economist who is recommending that the city upgrade it's "people counters," the hidden devices that track visits to Encinitas beaches, caught my interest.
Besides the creepy Orwellian vibe, the counters seem a little overly anal to me. It's pretty obvious the beaches around here are popular, all it takes is a quick drive by once in awhile to see that the beaches are being used year round by locals and tourist.
So why try to figure out a head count? I think the city wants to know which beach access to surround with parking meters.
City staffers have estimated that each trip to city beaches by local residents produces an average of $8 of local spending. Out-of-town visitors spend an average of $22 per beach visit in Encinitas stores, restaurants and hotels.
Encinitas' official estimate for local spending tied to beach visits is $44 million per year.
Holy crap, where did all these people come from and did they bring any money?
I spend around $8 bucks locally every time I go surfing; coffee, scone and a juice. Lately I've been going to the E Street coffee shop (owned by wacky left wing Coast News columnist Robert Nanninga). The coffee is really good there.
It's surfers who carry the local downtown breakfast joints during spells of poor weather. It's not unusual to see nothing but surfers eating at Potato Shack on a chilly overcast December weekday morning.
The counters are for sure flawed. For example if you are going to surf Grandview you park, walk down the stairs to check the waves. Then you walk back up the stairs and if the waves are good you put on your wetsuit and walk all they way down the stairs to the beach. Then, after you surf you walk up the stairs back to your car. So if you surf Grandview you get counted 4 times.
However, if the waves at Grandview aren't that good I might drive to D-St and go down those stairs. So I get counted at two beaches in one morning.
A lot of athletes will run up and down the Swami's stairs all day long. What are they doing to the count? We all see these runners getting weatgrass shots at the local health food places so the city is getting their money, no worries.
A reasonable thing to do might be to have the lifeguards do occasional headcount, especially during the summer.
But really, does it matter if 115 people went up and down the D-St stairs as opposed to 125?
And what about people who are spending money at the local coffee shop or taking their Raul's burrito to eat on a bench at one of the viewpoints? They are enjoying the beach, even if it is from the cliff. The "people counters" are not logging this behavior at all.
The beach is one of the the last places in the world you can take your family to for free. We have to monitor the city and make sure that these counters are not laying the foundation for charging beach passes like they do on the east coast.
One thing not mentioned in the article, how much does this people counter program cost?
It's common sense that the beaches are an economic draw. Maybe if our city council was made up of people who actually went to the beach once and awhile they would know this.
One, two, three, four, five...shit, I think a family down there brought some food from home. Six, seven, eight...