As documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, one of the simplest and most reliable ways to measure the success of downtown revitalization efforts is to monitor foot traffic.
If the number of pedestrians in your downtown is steadily increasing, you’re probably on the right track.
Now, researchers at the University of Toronto are using that approach, and are using easily-available mobile phone data to create reliable downtown recovery metrics.
They are computed by counting the number of unique mobile phones in a city’s downtown area in the specified time period, and then dividing it by the number of unique visitors during the equivalent time period in 2019. For example, the March 2023 – May 2023 time period is compared to the March 2019 – May 2019 time period.
A recovery metric greater than 100% means that for the selected inputs, the mobile device activity increased relative to the comparison period. A value less than 100% means the opposite, that the city’s downtown has not recovered to pre-COVID activity levels.