Downtown San Antonio recovering faster than most in COVID-19's aftermath, study says

Activity in downtown San Antonio is about 68% of what is was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to researchers at the University of California at Berkley.

Researchers measured how well a downtown area is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic by measuring cell phone activity. - Instagram / leavitt2mephotography
Instagram / leavitt2mephotography
Researchers measured how well a downtown area is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic by measuring cell phone activity.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced many out of their workplaces, once vibrant downtown areas became ghost towns. Many, including San Antonio, still suffer from the fallout of that tumultuous period.

Even so, a new study suggests the Alamo City is among those making a rebound. San Antonio's urban core is among the top 40% of North American cities in showing signs of a post-pandemic comeback, according to analysis by the University of California Berkeley's School of Cities project.

San Antonio's downtown area ranked as the No. 25 fastest-recovering center city out of 62 U.S. and Canadian metros, according to the report. Activity in our urban core has reached around 68% of what it was before the shutdown of early 2020.

UC Berkeley researchers analyzed how well each city's downtown was recovering by measuring mobile phone usage with in its confines last November and comparing that to 2019 usage numbers.

Salt Lake City took the top spot, with downtown mobile phone usage up 135% — meaning traffic is more vibrant now than before the pandemic. El Paso's downtown has also seen an increase in activity, with mobile phone traffic at 117% of what it was in 2019. El Paso is the only city in Texas with more activity than before the pandemic.

Despite Austin's rapid growth over the past two years, the state capital's downtown activity has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, UC Berkeley researchers found. Mobile phone traffic there is only 58% of what it was pre-pandemic, or 10% less than that of downtown San Antonio, according to the report.

Elsewhere in Texas, Fort Worth came in No. 23 at 70%, while Houston's downtown came in at No. 33 with activity at 61% of pre-pandemic levels.

San Francisco's struggling downtown area came in dead last, registering only 31% of the activity recorded before COVID-19 hit U.S. shores.

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About The Author

Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...


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