Navigating (Literally) the New Economy

By Sean Dowdall, LCI General Manager and Chief Marketing Officer

Sean DowdallThe economic upswing has gained firm traction – at least here in the Bay Area. In addition to the overall recovery of the national economy, the growing tech industry and the high number of innovative start-ups have increased job growth for the last few years and now you can feel and see the results of that growth all around.

You can experience too – the moment you step outside and try to get around. While tech certainly is a big industry, it is the old-school industries that perhaps are affecting our daily lives even more so here in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Those industries, construction and tourism, are booming. These industries are not virtual – they are real, physical industries that need space and take up a lot of it. The result? More activity and people in the same space means it takes a lot longer than it used to get around.

Planning your Trip

My first tip: know where construction is happening and avoid it. There are dozens of cranes and construction projects that seem to be right in the middle of where everyone wants to be or at least get through. And some of these are big projects. One is a new transportation hub and tower soaring more than a thousand feet high. Now this is a good thing for jobs and ultimately providing housing and services to a vibrant city, but the process of getting there can be inconvenient.

It’s more than new construction of buildings. There’s new central subway that is keeping the streets near Union Square torn up for years – right in the heart of where so many tourists tour. And, after many years of underfunding, deteriorating infrastructure is being replaced all over the city. My firsthand experience on the block where I live is that the street has been torn up 4 times in the last 3 years with the replacement of old water lines, sewer lines, cable lines and even a new electrical line for the Golden Gate Bridge. On top of that, new sidewalk corner curb cuts have been made with new fancy yellow mats for improved access. Each time any of these happened, parking spaces have been off limits and traffic has been diverted.

Other Old-Tech Can Slow Things Down Too

Clearly, there is a lot more construction now and that will last for at least 3 or 4 more years. We’re also seeing and increase in other old-tech activity on our streets.

A great trend to see is the number of bicycles on the street. Supporting that trend, San Francisco is rapidly adding bike lanes and looking at streetscape improvements to make the bicycling and walking experiences better ones in the city. Again, more activity in the same amount of space means something has to slow down. My next tip: always look in your review mirror and over your right shoulder before turning right. More than likely, you will see a bicyclist. The other old-school industry slowing down movement here is the increase in garbage trucks. More people and more buildings mean more garbage to be carted away and recycled.

Slower Journey, More to See

All of this activity is quite exciting to see. The irony is that with the frustration of not getting around faster, you do have more time to look around and see all of this change. The tech industry and all of the wonders it keeps creating are indeed amazing, but so is seeing life on the streets of the city.

Questions or comments? Share your thoughts below or send an email to [email protected]

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4 Comments

  1. David Landis Reply

    Sean, I agree: navigating the new San Francisco is definitely not for the faint of heart. Glad to see the investment in bicycle lanes and alternative commuting such as car sharing (like our client City CarShare) and ridesharing. Bottom line? Glad SF’s economy is on the upswing. Cheers, David

  2. David Cumpston Reply

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for these great reminders. I’m still amazed at the number of bikes that flow toward downtown in the mornings and away from it in the evenings. All of the changes you mention require some extra patience but in the end it’ll all be worth it. Regards, David

  3. Tyler Arnold Reply

    Great post, Sean! It’s exciting to see the change that’s happening in this city so fast…

  4. Kristin Cockerham Reply

    As a San Francisco “transplant” having moved here almost three years ago, I’m amazed to notice how the skyline has morphed in the past year alone. It’s a daily struggle to suppress my inner Northeast-driver to become more of a defensive driver wary of the many cyclists. Perhaps one of these days, when I get sick of construction detours, I’ll join their pedaling forces…