It took a single week to remake one of the nation’s most walkable cities with its vibrant restaurant scene into a shelter-in-place society. Home to 1.6 million people, Philadelphia was also typically visited daily by thousands of tourists and suburban commuters. We studied Google’s pedestrian foot traffic data from Thursday to learn how a pandemic has quickly altered daily routines across the city.
Its iconic grand concourse, bustling a week ago with people grabbing lunch on the go as they boarded SEPTA or Amtrak, has lost more than half its foot traffic.
Forget snaking security lines and elbow-to-elbow waits to board planes. Foot traffic is down dramatically every hour of the day. The airport, one of the nation’s busiest, was set on Thursday to lay off hundreds of subcontracted workers.
Far fewer passersby are walking the wide sidewalks beneath Philadelphia’s 548-foot tower centerpiece with the William Penn statue. Normally, tourists, marriage license seekers and thousands of others crisscross its central courtyard.
High on the bucket lists of tourists, the footrace up the 72 stone steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art symbolizes the willpower of fighter Rocky Balboa of the movie fame. Foot traffic has tanked.
Robert Indiana’s vibrant, uplifting LOVE sculpture was a Philadelphia selfie spot decades before the iPhone. With few people in Center City, the park’s daily foot traffic has plummeted.
March is typically a slow month for visitors to this iconic redbrick hall, where the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence were adopted. It is closed due to the virus outbreak. What little foot traffic Google is capturing could be people out for fresh air or scouting for milk and bread at the Wawa across the street.
The global pandemic has not kept Philadelphians from visiting Wawa, officially declared a “life-sustaining” business that can remain open. This store, just off South Street, lost its morning rush of foot traffic but the afternoon was normal on Thursday.
Before the coronavirus, local shoppers shuffled shoulder to shoulder with wide-eyed tourists. Fewer walked the aisles Thursday, with the Market’s website saying it is “stocked, open and safe.”
Supermarkets, like this Acme (pronounced ACK-a-me if you’re a local), were inundated with people hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer and just about anything else on the shelf. Food shoppers broke out of their grocery routines, the data show. People are going both earlier and later, perhaps trying to avoid crowds as fears of getting sick mount.