Were COVID pedestrian streets good for business? Evidence from interviews and surveys from across the US
Keywords:COVID, Economics, Open Streets, Pedestrian, Parking
During the COVID pandemic, at least 97 US cities closed downtown streets to vehicles to create commercial pedestrian streets with the goal of encouraging active travel and economic activity at safe social distances. This study addressed three questions about these programs for businesses located on a pedestrian street: 1) what factors influenced their feelings about the program; 2) what concerns did businesses located on pedestrian streets have; and 3) how did the pedestrian street program impact a business’s revenue as compared to other businesses in the area on streets that did not close. We created a geographic database of these pedestrian streets and identified nearly 14,000 abutting businesses, from which we collected interview and survey data. The interviews and survey results highlight key issues surrounding businesses’ experiences with pedestrian streets. Businesses abutting pedestrian streets had a slightly higher opinion of these programs than businesses not abutting these streets. A test of the effect of pedestrian street interventions on business revenue using a pseudo-control group showed the effect to be uncertain but, on average, negligible. The findings point to steps that cities can take to maximize the benefits of pedestrian streets for local businesses.
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