toronto activity trends

Here's how life has changed in Toronto over the past year

Whether they've lost a job, an apartment, a business, a loved one, or merely been forced to put their pub trivia career on hold for a while, it's safe to say that every single person in Toronto has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic somehow.

The unfortunate truth is that some parts of the city are being hit harder than others by the highly-contagious virus and its economic impacts.

We have, however, seen some trends emerge among Toronto residents on the whole in regards to how we've adapted to this new reality in recent months.

The ways in which we all get around, procure food and spend our leisure time in particular have all seen significant shifts since the pandemic first hit in March, according to newly-released data from Google Maps

"The world has changed in 2020, and so has the way that we navigate it. From where we spend our time to how we get there - and everything in between," wrote the tech company in a release announcing its findings.

"As we head into the final months of 2020, Google Maps dove into Popular Times, traffic and search data to see where and how Torontonians have changed their patterns during the pandemic (March 2020 - October 2020)."

First up, transportation: Google saw a 53 per cent uptick in people looking at "cycling directions" for map routes, year over year, compared to the same time period in 2019.

This is, perhaps, unsurprising to people who regularly hit the roads, as bike traffic has been increasing not only since the pandemic, but steadily for more than a decade alongside a booming population and worsening congestion.

Also unsurprising is Google's finding that 38 per cent of Torontonians "were less interested in resorting to public transit when compared to this time last year."

Food trends, on the other hand, reveal some quirky habits: Apparently, Torontonians have been 200 per cent more likely to order food online on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays than they were in the before times.

"The top foods searched for were Indian (1), Chinese (2), Halal (3), Mexican (4), and Ramen (5)," writes Google of what Toronto residents are eating when they order out.

In terms of activities, staying home more often appears to have brought out the inner green-thumb in many Toronto residents.

"Quarantine must have encouraged people in Toronto to spruce up their homes — In May searches for home and garden stores spiked and were 80 per cent higher than they were before the pandemic," notes Google.

"Searches for outdoor locations, like parks and hikes, were trending 85 per cent higher in May across Toronto," the global tech juggernaut reveals.

The top most-searched for parks since the pandemic hit? High Park, Etienne Brûlé Park and Milton's Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area.

Based on these trends, Google Maps is rolling out several new features to help Toronto residents stay safe amid the ongoing second wave: Real-time food delivery tracking, live transit crowdedness updates and COVID-19 cases trending on maps among them.

Here's what the company found out about "popular times in Toronto" at different spaces to help guide your day in the meantime:

  • Pharmacies are busiest on Fridays and Saturdays from 1-4pm. The best time to go is any weekday between 9am and 10am.
  • Cafes are busiest from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. The best time to visit a cafe is on Wednesdays from 4-5pm.
  • The best time to go do groceries is on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday at 9am as the vast majority of stores are open and are least busy. The worst time to head to the grocery is on Friday or Saturday afternoon starting 1pm.
  • The best time to head to the park is on Sunday early morning, before 9am. The busiest time to go is Saturday afternoon.
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