The amount of foot traffic in downtown Tempe — an important measure of the pedestrian-friendly area’s health — is on the uptick.
The Downtown Tempe Community credits new businesses and increasing light rail ridership with the jump in the number of visitors the last three months of 2011. About 21 percent more pedestrians passed through compared with the same period in 2010.
One of the biggest increases was at Third Street and Mill Avenue, where the Metro light rail station’s ridership grew 5 percent. Another significant factor was the launch of Ncounter — a new lunch and breakfast concept from the owners of Mesa’s popular T.C. Eggington’s — said Jimmy Cerracchio, the DTC’s vice president of business and consumer outreach.
Foot traffic grew from 20 percent to more than 280 percent during several of the times when the DTC tracked pedestrians.
“The only one we knew would grow Third Street and Mill because Ncounter has totally changed that atmosphere on that corner,” he said. “There is always high traffic when that is open.”
The corner of Fifth Street and Forest Avenue saw a 122 percent increase in foot traffic. Rising gas prices have encouraged more people to use the adjacent transit center and the Metro stop, which is the fourth busiest on the 20-mile line.
Pedestrian activity fell in some places during various times of the day, but overall foot traffic was up. Mill and Fifth remains the busiest place downtown. More than 800 pedestrians move through the intersection in some one-hour periods.
The DTC expects several changes at the north end of Mill will enliven an area where vacant properties have long discouraged people from passing by.
The recently empty Tempe Gateway office and retail building is taking on more tenants near the historic Hayden Flour Mill. Also, Tempe expects to debut a plaza and improvements to the Mill in May.
“Having the Mill finished is going to be a huge asset,” Cerracchio said. “It will be lit, it will be a lot more friendly, it will encourage people to hang out.”
The DTC counts pedestrians every spring and fall to analyze traffic patterns and share information with planers and potential new businesses. The DTC counted pedestrians at six locations for one-hour periods, beginning at 8 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The surveys were done Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from October through December. The DTC estimates more than 4 million visitors come to downtown Tempe annually.
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