Foot Traffic to “Places of Commerce,” Office Occupancy Hit by Covid Resurgence, Persistent Work-from-Home: Real-Time Data

The longer the Pandemic drags on, and work-from-home gets entrenched, the further Old Normal moves out of reach.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

There has been a recovery of sorts, but it has been frustratingly partial and in some areas, such as office occupancy, even minimal, with many peculiar shifts, twists, and turns – each with losers and winners: That’s what real-time data trackers are pointing out.

The AEI released its latest weekly Foot Traffic Index for 40 metro areas in the US today, based  on cellphone GPS data from The index was put together to track the recovery from the Pandemic. The seven-day moving average tracks daily visits to “points of interest,” such as stores, malls, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, airports, hospitals, other places of commerce, and other points of interest, and visits from employees.

In the chart below, each line represents one of the 40 metros. It compares foot traffic in the current week to where foot traffic was in the week ended January 15. A value of 100% would mean foot traffic is back at its January-old-normal level.

The bold lines are Kansas City, Virginia Beach, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with Kansas City being the red line at the top (74%) and San Francisco being the greenish line at the bottom (43%), just above San Jose (42%). This means that foot traffic in Kansas City is 74% of where it was in the week ended January 15; and that in San Francisco, foot traffic is 43% of where it was in the week ended January 15.

Note the curve of Kansas City. It was near-V-shaped, up from the trough of 38%. But then the city began to experience a major outbreak of Covid-19. The city and the people are now trying to stay safe and contain the outbreak (click on the chart to enlarge it):

The second bold line from the bottom is Los Angeles (47%). It’s sandwiched between the thin lines of Phoenix (52%) and Miami (47%), just above Orlando (46%).

Here are the 40 metros, with the foot-traffic percentages in the week ended August 9, and the foot traffic percentages during the low point:

Metro Week to Aug 9 Trough
Kansas City, MO 74% 38%
Indianapolis, IN 73% 33%
Nashville, TN 71% 34%
Virginia Beach, VA 67% 38%
Atlanta, GA 67% 34%
St. Louis, MO 66% 35%
Cincinnati, OH 66% 33%
Milwaukee, WI 66% 34%
Providence, RI 65% 31%
Jacksonville, FL 65% 37%
Charlotte, NC 65% 37%
Detroit, MI 65% 25%
Chicago 64% 30%
Minneapolis, MN 63% 30%
Dallas, TX 62% 33%
Cleveland, OH 62% 31%
Columbus, OH 62% 32%
Houston, TX 60% 33%
Pittsburgh, PA 60% 30%
San Diego, CA 59% 27%
Denver, CO 59% 27%
Sacramento, CA 59% 34%
San Antonio, TX 59% 34%
Austin, TX 58% 30%
Baltimore, MD 57% 32%
Riverside-SB, CA 57% 33%
Tampa, FL 57% 32%
Portland, OR 56% 34%
Philadelphia, PA 56% 29%
Seattle, WA 55% 32%
Boston, MA 54% 25%
Washington, DC 53% 29%
Las Vegas, NV 53% 22%
New York, NY 53% 24%
Phoenix, AZ 52% 35%
Los Angeles, CA 47% 26%
Miami, FL 47% 26%
Orlando, FL 46% 23%
San Francisco, CA 43% 25%
San Jose, CA 42% 25%

Foot traffic into the security zones of airports – the TSA’s daily checkpoint screenings, a real-time indication of how many people are flying – shows similar stall in the recovery, but a much lower levels, still down about 70% from a year ago.

I can sort-of confirm the San Francisco foot-traffic score of 43%.

Nearly all of the tourists from overseas are gone, based on my observations from the touristy part of the city where we live. For office workers, working from home is huge here. Companies in the Bay Area have pushed out the date when people should return to the office. Google moved its return-to-the-office-date to at least July 2021. Other companies are now implementing work-from-home as a permanent feature or option, such as Twitter. With many startups, there are doubts if there will be even a company to return to.

Restaurants can be open, but only for outdoor dining, take-out, or delivery. You get used to eating in 59° windy and foggy weather (this is summer, after all). But lack of sidewalk space makes this impossible for many restaurants. In other places, street-parking in front of the restaurant has been converted into a seating area. Many restaurants have switched to take-out only. A large number of restaurants are closed and may never reopen.

Gyms, pools, the building of my swim club, and the like are closed. But the beach is open, and it’s free, and livelier than ever, and the water is nice, and I have never seen so many people swim in it. Pool swimmers are discovering cold-water swimming and the beauty of the Bay.

And due to the renewed surge of the virus in the City, some of the reopening steps have been put on hold or were backtracked. So foot traffic in San Francisco at 43% of January levels seems about on target.

Are people going to the office yet? Um…

The sudden reality of working-from-home for many office workers, and their eventual return to the office, can be tracked by collecting data from access control systems, such as keycards, key fobs, and access apps. Kastle Systems – which provides access systems for 3,600 buildings and 41,000 businesses in 47 states – has been releasing its own weekly Back to Work Barometer, based on the data it obtains from its access systems in 10 large metros.

Office occupancy collapsed in March and April as people stopped going to the office, and the 10-metro average hit a low of around 15% – meaning that office occupancy, as measured by employees entering the office, was down 85% from pre-Pandemic levels. Then there was a mild recovery. But the recovery stalled in mid-June. The average of the top 10 metros (red line in the chart) is at 22.6%, just below where it had been in the week of June 17. I added the black horizontal line, from the current value of the top-10-city average (click on the chart to enlarge it):

In Dallas and Los Angeles, where office occupancy has been higher than in the remaining eight cities if the barometer, it still was only 34.9% and 31.9% of pre-Pandemic levels. The New York metro is at the bottom with an occupancy of 11.7% — meaning occupancy is still down 88%. San Francisco is just above it, with an occupancy of 13%. This becomes eerily clear when you walk around the Financial District during what used to be rush hour.

The longer the Pandemic drags on, the more people and companies will change permanently – some of it for the better, some of it not, followed by economic adjustments across the spectrum, of the type we can already see the beginnings of, from commercial real estate to where people want to live and work. And the Old Normal moves further and further out of reach.

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  91 comments for “Foot Traffic to “Places of Commerce,” Office Occupancy Hit by Covid Resurgence, Persistent Work-from-Home: Real-Time Data

  1. Lune says:

    The biggest question I have from this article is… Who the heck is safegraph and how the heck do they get my gps data???

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Your data is a commodity that is traded by data brokers. Researchers can also get this data in “anonymized” form.

      When you look at Google maps during rush hour, and all streets are read, this is cell phone data.

      • Cas127 says:


        Thanks for putting in the work to continually find new metrics to objectively measure macro economic activity.

        The more financial asset prices are unmoored from underlying financial reality, the more dangerous the financial mkts become for the average investor/401k holder.

        The cynical put all their tainted faith in the Fed and its magic ZIRP gun, but anybody who has spent a half hour reading economic history knows how money printing in the face of decline ends – “There was money everywhere, by the wheelbarrow, but less and less to buy…”

        • JC says:

          When Money Dies: The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation, and Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany Paperback

      • Paulo says:

        Another reason NOT to own or use a cell phone. I guess the only hurdle left to absolute and complete surveillance will be CCTV installations to the level of UK and China.

        And I thought my neighbours were nosy. :-)

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Don’t know your neighbors, but last time we lived in very small town fly over, 99-15, my wife warned me early on not to say much about anyone else we knew there… course, I was not always careful, especially after some of that incredible ‘shine, 120 proof at $40/gal,,, heard my comment back from several folks who were SO far away it was incredible…
          Mom came home from work Mondays in early ’60s and told me everything I had done over the weekend, 99% correct! And I knew she never spoke to anyone I was with except when my buds came to our house, etc…
          Not sure which is worse, small town word of mouth/gossip or today’s nanny state surveillance,,, and IMO, it is without doubt that we will soon have the CCTV as per already in places, SOON!
          Even though I miss them every day, I am glad family and friends who went to war to protect and defend democracy in World War 2 are not here to see what is happening; IMHO they would be very very upset to see us sliding into fascism by both right and left.

        • This is metadata, and what personal data (phone conversations mind you) they do have on you is stored in Utah, and nobody looks at it, until your name shows up somewhere. Then only if the information is pertinent to the charges. We are a nation of grifters, financial fraud is the pandemic. You move your assets offshore and then bitch about America on your blog. Having your gps on means the police can find you, after you are carjacked, or your business partner takes you for a drive in the desert. Just make sure you stuff it between the seat. Apple never released the cell phone records on the San Berdoo shooters, only because it would give USG the KEY to all their cell phones. So your security concerns are not as salient as they are in Bejing however these guys helped set that system up. It really comes down to how much faith do I have in my government to treat me fairly? The issue of China hacking personal data on Tik Tok is curious. We do the same thing and we sell it? The data dilemma will end, when no one has a job you don’t need an SSN, an no one has a car (that requires driving skills) so no DL. No healthcare so babies are born at home, no hospital birth certificate. No privacy problems.

      • Serge says:

        Some guy crated traffic on the bridge by wheeling 99 phones back and forth in a wagon.

    • Helmut Beintner says:

      Big Brother is watching YOU!

      • Brant Lee says:

        Can you imagine what China and North Korea are doing with all this available “anonymized data”?

        • roddy6667 says:

          Nothing worse than what Google is doing.

        • jtom87 says:

          Why do people always bring that up? Literally we make fun of them, but we are at the same level on certain things and others a lot worst.

        • Happy1 says:


          You have no understanding of North Korea and China if you are suggesting such a thing. China scrubs any mention of dissent from all internet forums and won’t even allow pictures of Winnie the Pooh because people use that as a surrogate for Xi. And North Korea simply murders people who dissent. They’re certainly is data collection here by a variety of actors but those other countries are orders of magnitude orders worse and the simple post you have made on this blog wouldn’t even be possible in either country.

        • char says:

          North Korea? Not that many North Koreans have a mobile phone and they are not hat interested in the US to spend their meager money on

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      Lune: Hate to break it to you buy big tech knows everything you do, everywhere you go and increasingly everything you say.

      • sierra7 says:

        I make sure I give the middle finger at least once a day to my computer screen and my Nest thermostat……..
        Take that for…….”Paranoia”…
        Just trying to level the playing field!!
        Besides it makes me feel good and its fun….

  2. 2banana says:

    There is more to it.

    The foot traffic in the suburbs is well on its way to full recovery (from my personal observations). Packed packing lots at the big box stores, packed parks/beaches, restaurants with lines out the door, houses are selling quickly and over asking price, help wanted signs are everywhere.

    • Rosebud says:

      Whew, the beach Was packed last Saturday, Grand Bend, Ontario. I believe this was August 8th. 8/8, if you remember, it means the door opens, a portal, and like a lot of people it’s best not to know about it, for it to work properly, which it did, because we got a really good direction read on the compass: NNE. This came out the following day, August 9.

      So, anyways, a good portion on the main drag were wearing masks. Restaurants full. Had to walk 20 blocks to get a free parking spot. It doesn’t look like an epidemic, but IT does feel like a social experiment.

    • Lance Manly says:

      This is why rural areas are starting to spike with covid.

  3. Frank says:

    From Safegraphs privacy policy,
    “ How to Opt Out of Information Collection and Interest-Based Advertising
    To avoid having your device’s mobile advertising identifiers (and location data associated with it) used for our services, including for interest-based advertising, you may adjust the settings on your mobile device. For iOS mobile devices, you can do so as follows: go to “Settings” from your device’s home screen; scroll down to “Privacy”; select “Advertising”; and turn on “Limit Ad Tracking.” For Android mobile devices: go to “Google Settings” on your Device; select “Ads”; and check or toggle the setting labeled “Opt Out of Interest-Based Ads” or “Opt Out of Ads Personalization.”

    • Tony says:

      Yes, but cell phone tower triangulation and wifi triangulation…you can’t opt out of. I know you’re specifically talking about Safegraph though. The only real solution is to either use airplane mode or just turn off your phone or a VPN.

      I don’t use Apple. I have an android device that has been overhauled with a new operating system without google’s software completely. These big tech companies are all “walled gardens” of technology. The sad undeniable truth of a smartphone is that they really are tracking devices.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        This is true, and as bad or almost as face hook far shore tony!
        I do not and cannot understand why people indulge themselves in face hook or the other so called social media which in the end are simply self aggrandizing platforms for most individuals.
        The simple answer to the tracking is just leave the damn phone home when local shopping etc., use it on long distance trips where the GPS and search functions are very hand and save a lot of time, and even turn it off between those needs, etc., (and maybe even have to put the phone into some kind of shielding device when it’s turned off now??)
        On the other hand, I remember hearing of a young person who moved out of their parents house the day they turned 16, the legal age to do so, because they were not allowed to talk on the phone at family dinner time… 60 years ago, eh

      • roddy6667 says:

        What is this OS? How does it get drivers? I have been using Linux exclusively for 10 years now on my laptops.

      • Darwwin says:

        Even in airplane mode with GPS on they can pinpoint your location once you connect to the internet at a later time. I was in airplane mode on my last hiking trip but using my GPS on the phone to track my location along the trail. Once I got back home and connected to WiFi oogle asked me to rate the trailhead and a specific point of interest along that trail. So all your GPS data is controlled and seen by these companies. Perhaps if I turned off GPS then they wouldn’t be able to track my where about but do we really know if GPS truely stays off the whole time? My wife had her phone in airplane mode with GPS off the whole time, is should check and see if she was asked by oogle to rate the trailhead and points of interest.

      • Lee says:

        Lot of crooks have been caught via phone and mobile phones………just shows that some are really dumb. Better persec and opsec would see lots more of them getting away with even more crime.

        Police departments here in Oz were really slow to use available data from mobile technology in order to catch crooks.

        When I worked for the cops here as an analyst I was one of the first to use triangulation in a homicide case to prove that a suspect had lied about his movements.

        Unfortunately, the place of the murder and the suspect’s house was in the same 120 degree sector of mobile phone tower coverage so that shot that part of the case out of the water. Only one tower in the vicinity too.

        The other problem back then was that only one mobile phone carrier would keep the data longer than the 30 day requirement at that time.

        So if they people were using other carriers, then that data was lost forever after 30 days if not already requested.

        And this case was another one filled with dumb, stupid errors by the original investigators. The cop who I worked on with this case told me that over 50% of the unsolved cold case murders were a result of some screw up by the police. The guy was an outstanding investigator with the longest period of service in the homicide unit.

        (One cold case I worked on was so pathetic that I couldn’t believe it. The next door neighbour of the victim was never interviewed face to face, only had a quick phone interview, and was never asked any pertinent questions.

        I took a look at the case over 20 years later and beleive it or not the next door neighbour was still living at the same address, wasn’t senile, and when we went to his house to ask some questions, his first responce to us was:

        “I’ve been waiting 20 years for you to come and talk to me.”

        Had the police at the time of homicide actually sat down and conducted a formal interview with this person, the case most likely would have been solved at that time. He provided a lot of new information and other information that contradicted information provided the main person of interest.

        Shortly after working on this case, I left the job in total disgust with the way things were being done. The case is still open and totally ignored by the police to this date.

  4. RagnarD says:

    define “nice”
    as someone who once swam around manhattan…
    shark fins not present?
    no recent oil spill?
    clear spaces between ice flows?
    solid waste not visible?

  5. Jack M says:

    Correction: The City, not the City…

  6. MCH says:

    I wonder how many businesses would shrink their footprint. Looking mainly at the big guys. I would guess guys like Salesforce and Twitter might stay as long as whatever tax advantage remain. But with WFH becoming a more permanent feature, at some point there is going to be a desire to shrink the footprint.

    Cause all of that empty space is like money in the toilet.

    • Rosebud says:

      Take out the doors and windows. Tell everyone ‘Its the New Tiki’ just like that Caribbean beach we love, paying itself forward. No, seriously, if it’s abandoned, vacated, or inefficient to operate, Debutton™ the place.

      This Business Idea banana, would require changes to the Debuilding™ code, social media vetting, and Aggressive Accounting by the various revenue authorities. They’ve given us Notice that they are on their Game! Is there a trinity left for them? Maybe find it in the back pocket…

  7. Anthony Beckham says:

    One thing I’m curious about the data is if it is adjusted for weather/seasonality. Foot traffic here in Phoenix is bound to be a lot lower in the summer than in January, naturally. Also curious if that holds true for cold winter cities.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      It’s not adjusted for anything. This is raw data, based on cell phone GPS data. So if you drive to your air conditioned mall, or hospital, or restaurant, you’re in it.

      • Josh says:

        I think the point is that comparing current traffic to the week ending Jan 15 may not be comparing apples to apples. In colder climates such as the east coast you would expect more foot traffic now than then. Conversely in places like Phoenix you might expect less foot traffic in the summer. A year over year comparison might be more helpful. Either way the data is interesting and definitely shows the trend.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          No apples to apples. This Pandemic is unique in my lifetime. Everyone tries to find ways to measure the recovery. So this raw unadjusted unsanitized data is a refreshing look at what’s going on.

          BTW, “foot traffic” is not people “walking” on the sidewalk. It means people entering a place of business. They drove to the mall, parked, and walked into the mall. People in Phoenix do that in the summer too.

        • El Katz says:

          Yes, people in Phoenix go places during the summer. However, there are simply fewer people in Phoenix in July than January. Why? Because there are presently no Barrett-Jackson auctions, no professional golf tournaments, the university students were allowed to move their stuff in during the past week and then sent home for two weeks (for whatever reason), the Canadian citizens were called home (or so I’m told – a not insignificant number of houses out where I live are owned by Canadians)…. our German friends are back in the Motherland as well.

  8. Josap says:

    Most of the people I know either work from home or are at home because their job went away. Maybe 1/10th go to work, with other humans.

    People adapt, or die.

    • Rosebud says:

      Good comment. Homeless people adapting has turned them into dogs. Like holy sheit, woof woof woof, master, earthquake!!!

  9. Lee says:

    I think foot traffic in the Melbourne CBD is down something like 90% compared to the same time last year.

    Of course we have all those nifty restrictions and a curfew, but that hasn’t stopped the spread of the virus nor the deaths in aged care.

    410 new cases and 21 deaths for today’s data for a new high in deaths and 16 of the 21 were linked to age care.

    The talking heads and ‘know-it-alls’ are now spouting bs about maybe easing restrictions if and when we hit only 20 cases a day.

    There is no plan to get out of this mess and there has never been one.

    Track and trace remains pathetic and cases in regional Victoria are now increasing too.

    • Bill from Australia says:

      Shock horror as announced on Melbourne t v, a person 100 years old died of covid you could not make this up. Living two hours out of Melbourne cant drive there, all to true what LEE has described the situation here [masks] on is farcical.

  10. Sea Creature says:

    Re: location spying..

    Its even worse than that.. checkout LocationSmart.

    They track everyone’s cellphone within 200 meters. Data sold to whoever wants to buy it.. no controls.. no anonymizing, all fully identifiable to real time.

    There is no opt-in..if you have a cellphone, you are automatically in their system because phone companies willingly sell it to them. (so turning off ‘location’ doesn’t stop it).

    They had a hack too in 2018, exposing around 200 million customers (I guess everyone in North America with a cellphone).

    Yes this should be totally illegal.. but because of corruption, its not..

    And who knows what dark powers are using technology like this today to control / blackmail our politicians and others in supposed power…

    This plus google is like skynet has arrived.. Dark times ahead..

    • Sea Creature says:

      Actually, even look at the marketing material on LocationSmart’s website..

      It is totally creepy and scary what even their own website says they will do for you

      ..real time location of any employee (or anyone else) at ANY time (i.e. when off of work)
      ..find any device when roaming anywhere in the world..
      ..find wifi-only devices anywhere in the world..

      Its a corporate version of the ‘China’ panopticon, right here in North America…run by a corporation with everything for sale..

    • Mr Wake Up says:

      The New York metro is at the bottom with an occupancy of 11.7% — meaning occupancy is still down 88%.

      Wow I thought my 70% visualization was off but not 88%.

      Maybe the people living and pedaling dont have cell phones. Just realized I mixed them in the visual data.

      This is going to get really ugly.

      Something eerie came over me when they opened hudson yards. They required a reservation to hike the falafel tower, I felt like how many people can we keep selling the same brands and buildings too?

      Does the “masters card” offer any data available that tracks Aerosol can spray paint sales?

      That’s another gem of info hiding out there in the big ole Shities.

    • Tony says:

      I take it you’ve never heard of the fourteen eyes?

      The whole world is connected more than you think.

      Oh and it also goes deeper than all of this….every cell phone has a thing called an IMSI (internet mobile subscriber identity) in it’s hardware. You can easily buy or make an imsi catcher to intercept any cell data you want from anyone you want. Wireless data is all around us. It is very illegal though to make an imsi catcher.

      Please don’t flag me for conspiracy. This is real stuff. I work in fraud for a living and am very much a tech geek.

  11. mgold-8 says:

    I think there is a typo in the chart: Portland, OK

    Also Wolf, could you please tell us how it’s possible that you are able to write so many high-quality articles, and provide us with a comment section that’s second-to-none (highly entertaining, and even more highly informative; I especially appreciate the gentleman from Australia who goes into extreme detail about the nuances of Australian unemployment, among other things), and still get any sleep? Could you give us voyeuristic details of what an average day is like for you? Besides the people who sometimes write an article here and there, does anyone else help you maintain this web site? I don’t think I can adequately express how much I enjoy this site. I get totally addicted to the comments, to the point where I can’t stop reading them, even when I’m supposed to be getting ready for work. Or sleeping. Like right now!

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Thanks for the typo alert.

      I can’t sleep in the mornings, so I get up when I wake up, which can be before 5 am. I make coffee and commute to my WOLF STREET media mogul global headquarters down the hall, and sit down to work. I’m on Pacific Time (it’s about 7:45 AM here), but the server of this site runs on Universal Time -5, which means Central Time in the summer, Eastern Time in the winter.

      So the time stamps sometimes make me look like a night owl, when I comment after midnight per time stamp, but it’s just after 9 PM or 10 PM here. Usually my brain goes out at around 10 PM, then I wind down things, and I try to be in bed by 11 PM. I don’t always succeed, but that’s the goal.

      I work over this time span, except for the period I go swimming or jogging, or run errands, and the time I spend with my wife enjoying a leisurely dinner. I’m also the kitchen-clean-upper, so that takes some time too (she’s a wonderful cook).

      No one is helping me with this site or my articles. The articles other people write are in their name.

      There are also business functions I have to deal with, such as dealing with advertisers, the server, state and federal agencies, tax issues, accountings, and the like. I do all that myself, including two sets of tax returns, corporate and personal.

      Also, reading, moderating, and writing comments takes a long time every day. And my inboxes are wild, and require a lot of work. Sometimes I have to provide some tech support, such as when a person trips over something in the donation process or when the email updates suddenly don’t show up anymore. I few times a month, I do interviews, such as this afternoon, with

      But I do have a tech guy on retainer to handle the more complex tech issues of this site when they arise once every now and then.

      There is never a dull moment at my global headquarters here. I’m having a blast. This isn’t even work. I love doing this. So it’s easy to spend so much time on it.

    • chillypepper says:

      I live in Portland Oregon, and right now, I wish I was in OK :) It’s not very fun here. Watching my pretty city burn and our Mayor basically applaud’s gut wrenching. I would hope folks in OK were smarter than those here in Portland, who voted in these whack jobs.

  12. Alan says:

    By whom and how are the home, apartment, business eviction stats being collected? Seems time to begin to follow this statistic to compile the trend of the newly homeless.

    • Old School says:

      It’s a good reminder that the retail investor is at an informational disadvantage in the stock market. It’s probably best to try to play the long game with proper asset allocation for your time horizon.

      Retail investor has two main advantages in that your job isn’t based on short term performance and you have smaller asset amounts to invest so you can be more nimble if required.

  13. John says:

    Wolf – Interesting about the San Fran restaurants and outdoor dining. In addition to the limited sidewalk space for some restaurants, is another factor the homeless in some areas? I’ve seen many images of homeless people “camping” directly in front of businesses and the city does not remove them. Would not make for pleasant outdoor dining.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      The homeless people can be anywhere but mostly congregate in certain areas, including some public areas, and some streets. That’s where the scary pics come from. Outside of those areas, you might not see any at all, or just one every now and then. There are/were some nice restaurants in the South of Market area in streets where the homeless congregate. So the restaurant might be on one side of the block, and further down on the other side of the block, you might see some homeless hang out.

  14. Brant Lee says:

    Public schools are being pushed to open soon with these numbers, really? Much of the WFH data comes from children staying home from school since March. Opening (daycare), grades K thru 12 is going to be a disastrous attempt to recover the economy.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      ”Kids want to be with their friends.” is a popular story, even to the point of being in current ”comics” in the daily papers and websites bl.
      Around here in pine ellas co. FL, they have come up with a common sense approach of making school optional for on site or at home, at least to start with; while this will make some more work for the teachers having to do both, from what I hear from teacher friends, they also like it better than having to be in full classrooms 6 hours per day, cycle through 150 or more kids every day, etc.
      This addresses those parents who have stated publicly and forcefully that their kids are not going to be present in classrooms, not that this old guy blames them, as this virus is obviously something new and rationally very threatening.

  15. Glass half empty says:

    ….”You get used to eating in 59° windy and foggy weather (this is summer, after all).”…..

    The coldest winter I ever experienced, was a summer in San Francisco.
    -Mark Twain-

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      A while back I was in San Jose for a bidness trip. And decided to go to a Giants game. This was early June and it was 70s or 80s in SJ and I was dressed for 70s/80s weather, short sleeves. Took the train to the game, got off the train and realized my mistake. Temp was 50-something and more like 40-something with the wind. I ended up buying a Giants sweatshirt for the ridiculously inflated price they charge, cuz otherwise I would have probably frozen to death :)

      Lesson learned about how summer time works in the Bay Area though.

  16. Natty Smasher says:

    As a young professional I find it surprisingly discouraging having to shift to a permanent WFH schedule. There’s this disconnect I can’t exactly put my finger on. I once sought this set-up but it definitely has its downs.

    I’m still trying to figure out how upward mobility will change as everyone transitions from in person table-talk to group meetings sitting behind laptop screens. Grabbing beers with my bosses sure used to help.

    • RightNYer says:

      Natty, that’s why, in my opinion, we will eventually switch to a hybrid system. People will come in two days a week, and have shared spaces. I think the days of coming in 5 days a week are over for good.

      • LoneCoyote says:

        That’s similar to what a lot of people at my company are doing; 1 or 2 days a week at home, and then the rest in the office (unfortunately much of our work can’t be done at home, before IT scrambled as the pandemic happened it was about none). It varies between different people, one guy I know is all 40 hours a week in the office, another comes in for maybe 2 or 3 hours 3 days a week (he has kids and tends to deal with more stuff that can be handled at home).

        The nice thing about this, for me at least, is that it gives me ability to get work done and use less sick hours if I have one of those days where I just feel like shit when I wake up or couldn’t sleep the night before for some reason.

        • RightNYer says:

          Yep, exactly. My company’s IT team is doing the same. The advantage of the 1-3 day a week in the office is that it’ll make housing much more affordable. If you’re not commuting every day, outer suburb/exurbs that are, say, 90 minute commutes each way, become much more doable. So it’ll free those places up as places to live and still work in a city or inner suburb if required to.

    • Xabier says:

      Well, whatever delusions we might entertain about ourselves, we are still Neolithic at heart, and that was all face-to-face.

  17. MiTurn says:

    “The longer the Pandemic drags on, the more people and companies will change permanently…”

    The longer the pandemic is with us, the more we learn about it. While there is often contradictory information reported on-line (masks work! they don’t!), it seems that this coronavirus can be pretty nasty. It can leave lingering physical problems well after a person is over the infection.

    My point is, this bug appears to be increasingly ugly, which might further entrench WFH, when possible. The longer the pandemic lasts, the more data is gathered and a better picture of the disease emerges.

    Yes, “permanent change” is on the horizon. I wonder what ‘normal’ will look like once we get there.

  18. Just Some Random Guy says:

    You all think this is scary? I have one better. There is a company (from SoCal I think) that is partnering with MLB which will identify fans in stands not wearing a mask. Long live Big Brother.

    And yes, I realize if you don’t like it, just don’t go to a baseball game. But soon enough things like this will be all over. And not just identifying mask wearers. The police state is here.

    • noname says:

      “The police state is here.”
      Except it’s corporations doing this with their power.
      I’m sure you stood alongside Elizabeth Warren [vis a vis Theodore Roosevelt] in her battle against this, right? Right?

      • Just Some Random Guy says:

        I agree the police state is run by tech. I fear Google a lot more than the govt.

        I think it’s cute you think Warren has your interests in mind.

        • noname says:

          The dissonance is thick with this guy.

          “Elizabeth Warren’s new plan: Break up Amazon, Google and Facebook”


      • Nik says:

        The “Police State” nomenclature as well as its ‘Orwellian’ actions..have been around for decades..true? The Multi-National Corporations will simply merge and morph into “Quasi” Governments in the near future,offering societies ‘Products~Services..etc..etc plus All-inclusive Protection and Security. Though China as a ‘State-run Corporation’ bears watching for future clues too.

        • noname says:

          His comments are far-right and far-right loves corporations and big business. I live in a far-right area and know their verbiage (used to be one myself). I posted to show the irony of his whining about “police state” is actually the free-enterprise corporatism that far-right idolizes and promotes.

          I love that Walmart requires face masks to enter. The far-right can 1) cry like snowflakes about it, or 2) wear that symbol of submission LOL.

        • Happy1 says:


      • Happy1 says:

        Government should be your concern. Show me how many people Google has in concentration camps in Western China?

        • noname says:

          Use your head!!!

          “In 2017, The Intercept revealed G—gle was planning to return to China and was willing obey the Chinese government this time. It was developing a search engine that censored results on democracy, human rights, religion and protests. G—gle called the search engine Dr@g0nfly.

          G—gle only canceled the project after series of protests. It appears, however, that we have not heard the last of it. While appearing before the US Senate, K@r@n Bh@ti@, G—gle’s vice president of public policy, said he could not confirm that G—gle will not build another censored search engine for China.”

          USE YOUR HEAD!

        • char says:

          Most countries demand that search results are censored. Google does not need a special Chinese version because of censorship but it needs one because it is a different language and could not optimize the search engine without the users as feedback loop

        • char says:


          Pinkerton IIRC

        • noname says:

          Really? REALLY?!
          Why would hundreds of G—- employees write an open letter opposing Dr@g0nfly?

          Read: “We are G—- employees. G—- must drop Dr@g0nfly.”

          Stop the obfuscation.

  19. roddy6667 says:

    Foot traffic can be misleading. Twenty years ago when I worked in a mall, we noticed that on many days the mall seemed busy, but nobody was carrying bags of purchases. The daily gross sales reports from the mall office confirmed this.

  20. c1ue says:

    My own experiences disagree with the data.
    If we are talking about overall SF – sleeping districts, it is possible since many areas like Noe Valley and Divisadero are basically back to normal.
    However, downtown is a ghost town and continues to be. Financial District, SOMA/East Cut, even Chinatown.
    What would be more interesting is foot traffic times rent multiple – that would be a better indicator of the overall economic hit from (lack of) foot traffic.

  21. Just Some Random Guy says:

    In my village, the downtown bar/restaurant patios are packed every night. Not sure about inside, but driving down the streets and looking at patios you’d never know the Corona existed.

  22. OutWest says:

    I live in the greater Seattle area and don’t miss the congestion one bit. Rude social behavior seems to be down since there are less people rushing around throughout the day.

  23. ROBERT SCHELLY says:

    Good article. I have been coming into downtown S.F. Monday-Friday via BART/ wife’s driving since the last week of March. Extraordinary experience, e.g. vacant parking spaces along Grant in Chinatown, no tourists so everyone along Grant speaking Cantonese, and North Beach acting like a neighborhood. Reminds me of the early ’90s when I moved here.

    The restaurants are doing their best but the few open are fighting a cold wind with a limited menu and sharply increased prices.

    In sum, I believe many of our tech and finance well-to-do are unaware of the devastation done to small biz here in San Francisco.

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      So you celebrate a lack of tourists then 2 seconds later complain about small businesses hurting. Come on man!

  24. Rorkesdrift says:

    Chicago numbers are way high. The loop is fairly empty.
    The data must have counted all the looters and rioters.

  25. Yertrippin says:

    Simple yet profound Wolf. “And the Old Normal moves further and further out of reach.”

    The sooner people recognize this very obvious fact, the quicker we adapt. I am astounded that the privacy issue still has shock value. As with Covid there was plenty of time for common sense to prevail. Unfortunately, that seems a commodity in short supply these days unlike personal convenience.

  26. Old Engineer says:

    Another indication that Wolf is right on the mark.

    REI plans sale of unused eight-acre headquarters campus as the retailer embraces remote work

  27. Island teal says:

    Good article…a lot of RE is going vacant and a lot more as we head towards 2021. The pending crash of CMBS is being planned out right now by every company as they evaluate the sizing of thier respective operations and staffing ??

  28. Hybrid says:

    The old normal is only going to return after a vaccine can be widely distributed. I envision that places requiring close proximity (dine-in restaurants, airports, offices) may require anyone entering to provide documentation that they are COVID-19 vaccinated.

    If everyone on a plane or in a restaurant is proven to be vaccinated, the fear would be markedly reduced.

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