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New Chicago Loop Alliance report shows Loop pedestrian activity down 58 percent, vehicle activity down 39 percent in 2020

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Posted  5 months ago

Press contact: Jessica Cabe | PR and Communications Manager, Chicago Loop Alliance | jessica@chicagoloopalliance.com | 815-713-8909

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Feb. 16, 2021

CHICAGO—Chicago Loop Alliance today released a report on Loop pedestrian activity throughout 2020, showing a decline of 58 percent for the year. Data is also delineated for important time periods, like the state’s stay at home order, the summer’s bouts of civil unrest, and changing regulations throughout the year. And the report found a 39 percent decline in vehicle activity on State Street in the Loop during 2020. View the full report here.

“This report puts numbers to what we already know, which is that the Loop has suffered enormously during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards. “Office workers largely stayed home, many other workers were laid off or furloughed, and tourism took a huge hit. The Loop’s storefront economy cannot be sustained by downtown residents alone. We are hopeful the COVID-19 vaccine starts to bring people back downtown safely, and Chicago Loop Alliance is exploring projects and programs that will build energy in the Loop once again.”

Chicago Loop Alliance tracks pedestrian and vehicle activity using counters by the U.K.-based company Springboard. Eighteen counters are located on the east and west sides of State Street from Wacker to Ida B. Wells drives. Using data from these counters, the report compares activity on State Street in the Loop in 2020 to 2019. The report also shows year-over-year comparisons of pedestrian activity in downtowns across the U.S. (down 59 percent) and the U.K. (down 45 percent).

The year began with pedestrian counts on State Street essentially even to 2019. In fact, the first 10 weeks of the year saw counts up by 1 percent. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the first lockdowns in March, footfall plummeted to a level never previously recorded, with average daily visits nearly 80 percent lower than the previous year. It wasn't until the George Floyd protests at the end of May where pedestrian counts saw a slight lift, with footfall for the subsequent six weeks on average 72 percent lower than in 2019. Additional protests and looting in early August, coupled with some reopening of retail and the beginnings of COVID-19 fatigue, resulted in pedestrian counts by the end of the summer only 67 percent lower than in 2019. The “Monet and Chicago” exhibit opening at the Art Institute of Chicago on Sept. 5 was a slight visitor draw, increasing the average annual trend to 67 percent down. Despite new city-wide restrictions instated mid-November, pedestrian counts remained at 66 percent lower than 2019 for the remainder of the year.

While still not back to 2019 levels, pedestrian counts in the UK are recovering better than in the US. The UK were largely unaffected by civil unrest and protests, but pedestrian counts steadily grew, with the annual trend reaching just 34 percent down from 2019, while US pedestrian counts were barely a third of the previous year's. It wasn't until new COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in the UK in November when the annual trend dipped back to 59 percent down, just a six point difference to the US trend.

In addition to tracking pedestrian and vehicle activity in the Loop, Chicago Loop Alliance has been releasing monthly business operations reports since July. These reports include data on CTA ridership, parking volumes, hotel occupancy, office workers on-site, COVID-19 positivity rates, and survey data from its member businesses and stakeholders. View the full January report, which includes year over year data for much of 2020, here.

“With Chicago’s move into Tier 1 Mitigations and then Phase 4 at the very end of January, we saw some improvement in business operations in the Loop,” said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards. “Notably, there was a 12 percent drop in the number of survey respondents who said their business was temporarily closed compared to the previous month. We hope these trends continue.”

Chicago Loop Alliance invites people to share their experiences downtown on social media using #BackInTheLoop.

About Chicago Loop Alliance

Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA)’s mission is to create, manage and promote positive and inclusive programs that attract people to the Loop and accelerate economic recovery. CLA is a membership organization as well as the sole service provider for Special Service Area#1-2015, and the Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation produces public art projects and events. For more information, please visit here.

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