June 24, 2020, by Erik Larson

How Foot Traffic Data Can Help Track Recovery

Since covid hit the movement of people changed. What can this tell us?

Even if it's out of my way I always make a point of driving through Main St on my way home. I can't resist the urge to see what the sidewalks and store fronts look like since becoming a virtual ghost town three months ago. Usually this time of year would be bustling with kayakers and tourists. This year White Salmon, WA looks like a totally different town.

The past several weeks have been busy here at eIMPACT. Various organizations have asked us what we can provide in the way of economic recovery indicators. The usual economic data isn't quite cutting it when the picture needs to be near-real-time.

We came across foot traffic data on the movement of people about a month ago and we've been using it heavily on economic recovery dashboards for cities, chambers, states and more. This data comes from aggregated, anonymized location data from smartphones (some limitations apply, based on volume of foot traffic data available by location).

Here is an example from NYC

But what does this data tell us about recovery?

In NYC, the epicenter of the outbreak here in the U.S., the city is showing a strong trend towards frequenting places that were deep in the red the last few months. It is clear that the latest week's data show promise after steep drop offs from the pre-covid baseline.

The interesting thing is we see different trends in each place we analyze. NYC is arguably a very extreme example from a scale standpoint.

Our restaurants, retail businesses (esp. mom & pop ones) rely on foot traffic to bolster business. Other industries are trackable by foot traffic too, including health care, offices and more.

Interested in how your community might look in terms of recovery? Reach out to connect with a person from our data team, we'd love to hear from you.