Toronto lagging in post-pandemic foot traffic recovery, data shows

By Kyle Hocking

Data released by the University of Toronto’s School of Cities suggests post-pandemic recovery in foot traffic in downtown Toronto is lagging far behind other major North American cities.

Researchers have been keeping track of foot traffic since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic by analyzing smartphone data.

The numbers suggest that between March and May of 2020, foot traffic in downtown Toronto dropped to about 39 per cent pre-pandemic levels.

The drop aligned with changes seen in other major North American cities including New York City, which dropped to 31 per cent, Boston down to 32 per cent, and Montreal down to 35 per cent.

foot traffic data

Data places Toronto 55th in the list of 63 North American cities in recovery of downtown foot traffic post-pandemic.

Toronto saw a drop as low as 31 per cent pre-pandemic levels between March and May of 2021 with lockdowns having a significant impact.

The numbers have been steadily improving since then, but the most recent data between December 2022 and February 2023 still shows Toronto at only 47 per cent pre-pandemic levels of foot traffic downtown. That puts Toronto 55th on the list of 63 cities analyzed.

Related: Foot traffic steadily rising across Canadian cities, new data shows

Other Canadian cities are also struggling with foot traffic recovery. Montreal also sits at 47 per cent pre-pandemic levels, Calgary and Vancouver at 51 per cent, Ottawa at 52 per cent, Winnipeg at 56 per cent, and Edmonton at 57 per cent.

Salt Lake City, Utah, saw the most dramatic recovery with an increase of 39 per cent in foot traffic between December 2022 and February 2023 followed by Bakersfield, Calif., up 18 per cent, and Fresno, Calif., up 15 per cent.

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