London's Emerging Hot-Spots: What Does Post-Pandemic UK Look Like?

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The world is always changing, and changing fast, but the COVID-19 pandemic shifted patterns of human behavior like never before. Urban centers experienced outbound migration at unprecedented rates. Tourism hubs lost visitors and revenue due to travel restrictions. Retail locations now operate according to the latest health advisories.

Migration and visitation behavior is constantly evolving, and keeping track of these pattern shifts requires timely and dynamic data.

Aggregated foot traffic data tells the story of the where, the when, and the how many, providing the temporal and geographical insights that speak to widespread change.

In London, we can layer foot traffic in December 2021 on top of foot traffic a year prior in December 2020 to reveal migration variations. Foot traffic is expressed according to a universal hexagon grid created by Uber. These grids are automatically processed by open-source mapping software Kepler. A simple .csv file for the time and place of your needs can be easily uploaded and imaged within seconds as seen in the map of London below. The hexagons are H3 Level 10, equivalent to 0.01 of a square kilometer.

The height of the columns pictured below are relative to the devices present in each hex, with purple to yellow representing 2020 data and the scale of blue indicating 2021. Follow the static screen-shots below or scroll down for a video interaction: 

3D London Metro view. December 2020 (purple to yellow scale) versus December 2021 (blue scale).

Bird's eye view London Metro. December 2020 (purple to yellow) versus December 2021 (blue scale).

We acknowledge the scope of time across a single month is limited and cannot speak to long-term patterns, but for demonstration purposes, we can still pick out clusters of difference between the years 2021 and 2020.

What are some emerging areas of London? 

Blue-outlined polygons indicate clusters of increased visitation in 2021 compared to 2020.

Wood Green, Stratford, Brixton, and Tooting stick out with accelerated foot traffic. The Northern locations of Stratford and Wood Green border the Hackney marshes, perhaps an indication of increased need for outdoor space in the face of pandemic restrictions, as well as individuals seeking living space away from busier downtown London.

Tooting and Brixton are known as up-and-coming areas with lower price price points for housing. This is also indication of urban spread for those seeking living space outside of busy downtown areas.

Which areas of London have seen visitation decreases?

Blue-outlined polygons indicate clusters of decreased visitation in 2021 compared to 2020.

The outskirts of Westminster, Walthamstow, Stratford, and southern Dulwich show distinct 2020 clusters on the map that were not exceeded by 2021 foot traffic counts. The area of reduction outside of Stratford and across the Hackney area contain industrial operations, a very likely sign of reduced business operations in this region even though foot traffic increased in Stratford proper.

The Westminster area is one of the wealthiest in London, indicating the potential for outflow during a period when the Omicron variant was at its peak. It's possible wealthier residents stayed in second homes or traveled elsewhere in the country, and examining this data over the long-term would reveal whether these areas of London are likely to see far fewer people in the area going forward.

Foot traffic offers the most granular level of insights even to the street level:

Aerial view of streets with reduced visitation in 2021.

What does this data mean in practice?

+ A business selecting a location for its newest site can review foot traffic trends over time to identify neighborhoods of growth or stagnation

+ Property developers can use foot traffic data to understand long-term migration trends and where to optimally place their next building

+ Models of migration flow can be built to forecast future demand for retail, housing, municipal services, and even evaluate public health risk

This data sample focused only on foot traffic in London over two months, but aggregated foot traffic is available for over 80 countries across the world all the way back to 2019. If you're new to Kepler and hexagon data, this User Guide can get you started.

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