Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Office work, transit use aren't recovering in Montgomery County, new data show

New Google Mobility data for Montgomery County show that transit use has only picked up by 1% since spring 2022, and that fewer workers are toiling in on-site offices than were this past spring. The data use a five-week period just before the pandemic hit the United States, January 3 - February 6, 2020, as the baseline. In reports I've posted over the last two years, numbers for office and transit use have been poor, as expected. But we've also seen some surprising shifts in behavior, which continue in the latest period examined here, from June 23 - August 4, 2022.

For starters, with the overwhelming message from governments and the media being to drop precautions and go back to business as usual, it's intriguing that there's been no significant increase in transit use in Montgomery County since President Joe Biden's State of the Union address. And would you have expected that the number of residents going into an office in Montgomery would actually decline by 12 percentage points since then, as well? Time spent in offices of employment in spring 2022 was 30% less than the pre-pandemic period; this summer it was 42% less than early 2020. The return of vacation travel may have been a factor - but not entirely, as summer 2021 office use was only 2 percentage points higher at 44% below the pre-pandemic period.

Use of public parks in Montgomery County has bounced back since spring. This summer, residents were 19% more likely to be in a park than they were during the pre-pandemic period of 2020. Shopping in stores and supermarkets has picked up since spring, too. The percentage of people going into retail stores compared to this past spring has doubled, but still remains 16% below pre-pandemic shopping levels. Residents' patronage of grocery stores is up 5% from spring 2022, but is 1% less than the pre-pandemic period. 

Montgomery County residents this summer are spending 10% more time at home than they did in the January-February 2020 period, the new data show. The data collected by Google is limited to those users who have opted in to allowing the tech giant to track their phone's location. It measures both the frequency of visits, and the amount of time those users stay in the places categorized in the results, such as grocery stores, transit stations and parks.

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