Major US downtowns see cell phone activity drop by over 30% since 2019.

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The impact of the pandemic on downtown areas has been significant. According to data collected by the University of Toronto School of Cities, as of the fall of 2022, many major population centers in the U.S. and Canada still recorded much less activity than before the pandemic. Let’s break it down:

  1. San Francisco: Cell phone activity in San Francisco is currently at just 57% of pre-pandemic levels.
  2. Minneapolis: Cell phone activity has dropped by 56% since the pandemic.
  3. Downtown Miami: Despite being one of the largest beneficiaries of the pandemic, cell phone activity there is only at 82% of 2019 levels.
  4. Other Downtown Areas: Over 40 downtown areas across the U.S. have seen 30%+ drops in cell phone activity since the pandemic.
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The shift to remote work has played a significant role in this trend. Workers opting for remote work have led to vacant office spaces, decreased public transport ridership, and less spending on lunchtime or after-work activities. As a result, business revenue and city tax income have been affected. While hybrid work could help tie workers to downtowns, it often requires high-quality office spaces. Another approach is to focus on creating livable experiences that draw people back into city centers. However, this challenge remains, especially for tech-heavy cities on the American West coast

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