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Strange city poll asks how you feel about future San Francisco scenarios

Get ready for future shock now

The SF skyline at night, out of focus as seen through a window.
The future is hazy.
         By settharath

With a new public poll, San Francisco City Hall is looking into the future. But its crystal ball is a bit hazy, and maybe even a little bit cracked.

The ConnectSF survey invites everyday San Franciscans to advise the city on the possible future so as to “prepare and build the best possible transportation system for San Francisco.”

ConnectSF is an amalgam of several different city agencies, including the Planning Department, SFMTA, and Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

The city does plenty of polls and surveys testing the citizenry’s attitude about public services, but this one goes in a strange direction.

Each time you click through, the survey site presents you with a hypothetical scenario about what San Francisco might look like in the year 2065 and then asks how you feel about that potential future.

“The scenarios are not predictions,” ConnectSF is quick to warn. “Each scenario is intended to help highlight possible changes ahead and how the city prepares for them.”

Some of the possible futures seem fairly plausible, like this one which sounds like the real San Francisco with the volume turned up:

By 2065 San Francisco has become a desirable but elite city with services that work well for wealthy and established residents. Less wealthy people mostly live outside of the City and commute in to work. For those who can afford it, the quality of life is high.

Other scenarios get more outlandish. In one, a mass economic depression squashes SF’s economy and the city breaks down into semi-autonomous sub governments each based around particular neighborhoods trying to provide services on their own turf.

Another possible future sounds a little bit like a cyberpunk novel:

In 2065, the free market is the major force in San Francisco. Government has taken a back seat. Public works and services such as operating public transportation, public education, and maintaining other public services are contracted out to private companies. Decisions that affect San Francisco are primarily made by corporations along with a handful of elected officials and the remaining City staff.

Dark times?

Each scenario gives poll subjects some basic info about life in 2065 (population increased or decreased, taxes up or down relative to current levels, public transit faster or slower) and then asks you to rate this possibility as either acceptable, unacceptable, or neutral.

The city is in effect conducting public opinion polls of alternate dimensions and future timelines.

While this sounds a a plot for a Star Trek sequel rather than a tool for shaping public policy (none of the proposed 2065’s mention the founding of Starfleet in San Francisco, for the record), it is nifty to consider the possibilities of each fantasy future.

And hey, maybe the city will actually learn something about transit planning priorities from all of this. Somehow?