FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA (January 26, 2023) – Pedestrian activity in the core of Center City continued to increase during the last quarter of 2022 and into the first two weeks of January 2023, as the volume of residents, workers and visitors of all types downtown continued to grow, a new report from Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CCD/CPDC) has found.
Center City District uses two independent sources of data to track these trends. First, CCD has installed sensors at 11 locations within the downtown commercial core. Three of these sensors in the main office district -- the 1700 block of JFK Boulevard and the 1600 and 1800 blocks of Market Street -- show a 25% increase in the average number of pedestrians from December 2021 to December 2022. The most significant increases are seen on Tuesdays (42%), Wednesdays (44%), and Thursdays (32%).
CCD’s other data source, Placer.ai, uses anonymized cellphone location data to estimate daily downtown foot traffic in a broader area from Vine Street to South Street, river to river. According to Placer.ai, Center City’s average daily population increased from a low of 113,600 in April 2020 to 326,000 in December 2022, which is 76% of the pre-pandemic December 2019 level.
This upward trend is due to factors including the steady stream of new residential development in and around Center City; the return of tourists, shoppers and regional visitors; and the return of non-resident workers of all types.
An examination of Placer.ai data focusing specifically on non-resident workers within the main office district boundaries as noted above found the average daily population has increased from just 2,500 in April 2020 to 13,000 in December 2022, which represents 42% of the pre-pandemic December 2019 level.
“Contrary to a national media narrative that the return to office may have plateaued, Center City workers have steadily been returning in greater numbers,” CCD President Paul R. Levy said.
Indicators show continued momentum so far this year. From January 1 to January 14, Center City’s average daily population totaled 317,800 ‒ 33% higher than the same two-week period in 2022, and 79% of the level seen during the same (pre-pandemic) period in 2020.
Another key indicator of recovery is transit ridership. SEPTA averaged 2.8 million weekly riders in December 2022, a 1% decrease year-over-year, but Regional Rail riders increased 18%, an indication of the strong recovery of downtown commuting. Ridership on the PATCO High Speed Line for the week ended December 10 was 111,400, a post-pandemic peak.
“National studies suggest that the downtowns doing best have diverse land-uses, including substantial housing, a strong convention and tourism business, vibrant arts and culture institutions, diverse restaurants, a business mix not highly dependent on technology or financial services and a relatively short work commute,” Levy added. “These are all characteristics that define Center City Philadelphia.”
Philadelphia’s long and successful history of converting vacant office and industrial buildings, driven by the 10-year tax abatement for conversions, provides an important tool for a path forward to greater land-use diversification.
The seven-page report, Pedestrian Vitality: Momentum Continues to Build, featuring a narrative of trends, along with explanatory charts tracking the recovery, is available at centercityphila.org/research-reports/pedestrian-count-report-january-2023.
Center City District is dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, and is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Find us at www.centercityphila.org.