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Elevator data details changing city usage in and out of covid

While footfall figures, now measured with increasing sophistication, can provide an accurate picture of shopping patterns in urban areas and shopping centres, reflecting the effects of occurences such as covid, elevator manufacturer Kone has devised a similar way of looking at wider city usage.

The company has analysed data from its global portfolio of elevators to tell the story of the flow of people in cities around the world over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Equipment designed and manufactured by Kone moves over one billion people every day in its customers’ buildings.

Data was collected from before the first lockdowns, which confined many people to their homes, to the present day and illustrates that in the top 10 European cities where Kone has comprehensive data showing the movement of people, the average number of office elevator journeys plummeted by 80% between February and April 2020.

For example, in London office buildings the average number of starts per elevator in September 2019, before the pandemic, was around 13,000. By April 2020, the average number of journeys per elevator had fallen to around 2,500.

The figure is similarly dramatic in Amsterdam. There the average number of starts per elevator in office buildings in September 2019 was around 16,500. By April 2020, the monthly average number of journeys had fallen to under 3,500 per elevator.

The data also document the recovery as restrictions were eased. Elevator use in London rebounded to 72% of pre-pandemic levels in November 2021, with the average Kone elevator making around 9,200 journeys that month.

However, Kone points out that the rate of increase of elevator usage in Europe stalled, or even fell between October and November. The company said this may be a reflection of the change in people’s behaviour or new restrictions on movement in response to the discovery on the Omicron variant in the second half of November.

In Amsterdam, for instance, the average number of journeys per office elevator was just under 9,000 in October, but fell to 7,900 in November.

Similarly, in Berlin, Brussels, Hamburg, Helsinki, Milan, Munich, Paris, and Stockholm there have been steady rises in office elevator use since the first lockdown, but the return to office buildings in all of them has abated or fallen since October.

Covid impact illustrated by fall in hotel elevator usage

Hotel elevator usage fell almost 90% from a monthly peak of over 22,000 starts per hotel elevator in September 2019, to around 2,500 starts per hotel elevator by April 2020. This figure recovered to around 19,000 in October 2021, but again slipped back to under 18,000 in November, a picture replicated in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Hamburg and Munich.

The global picture shows different national characteristics in the return to the office and since January 2021, a more nuanced picture has emerged from Kone’s elevator data for office buildings, which reflects different Covid-19 strategies in individual countries.

For example, in Shanghai at the start of the year, when China’s workforce had largely returned to typical working patterns, the monthly average number of starts per elevator stood at 18,300, but as of last month, the average number of monthly journeys had dropped to fewer than 15,000.

Whereas in Chicago, which still had strict restrictions in place at the start of this year, elevator usage has grown slowly and steadily since January, reflecting the United States’ systematic approach to managing the pandemic, and people feeling safer to return to the office.

“Elevator data can teach us a lot about how life has changed over the past couple of years – and it can also teach us how life might change in the future,” said Kone’s programme director, smart and sustainable cities, Tessina Czerwinski.

She said that one of the principal variables has been the specific national coronavirus restrictions at a particular moment in time. “For instance, at the start of 2021, the United States, Europe, and China were at completely different covid recovery stages with different rules on the movement of people, which is reflected in the way people have been travelling up and down office, hotel, educational and residential buildings this year.”

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