Austin Scores Highest on Pandemic Recovery; Bay Area and Baltimore Lowest

The Bay Area Council and CBRE created an economic tracker to measure how well the nation's 25 largest metropolitan areas have recovered from the public health restrictions imposed on their regions at the onset of the pandemic.

3 minute read

March 5, 2023, 11:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Coronavirus and Urbanism

Eddie Hernandez Photos / Shutterstock

“San Francisco’s recovery from the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the worst in the country among major metropolitan areas, according to an economic recovery tracker launched Tuesday by the Bay Area Council business group,” reports Eli Walsh of the Bay City News Foundation on Feb. 28.

That would be the San Francisco metropolitan statistical area, not the city. From a related, pandemic post:

Metros, or Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), are census-defined regions that consist of a city with 50,000 or more inhabitants and its surrounding communities.

The San Francisco–Oakland–Berkeley metro consists of five counties: Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa.

“Among the 25 largest metro areas in the country by regional gross domestic product, San Francisco’s pandemic recovery ranked 24th on the Regional Economic Recovery Index, besting only Baltimore,” adds Walsh.

San Jose fared better, but is still in the back half of the ranking at 16th. The Austin, Dallas and Denver metro areas have had the greatest recovery to date, according to the Bay Area Council.

The initial report by the council's Economic Institute, prepared in partnership with the commercial real estate services company CBRE and its Tech Insights Center, is the first of a three-year, three-part series of interactive reports focused on the Bay Area's economic recovery.

"The index portion of the project is focused on the 5 county San Francisco MSA (plus 2 county San Jose MSA)," wrote Abby Raisz of the Bay Area Council in an email on March 2.  “The 'Bay Area Deep Dive' section includes charts that encompass the entire 9 county Bay Area.”

The region was the first in the nation to issue a "shelter in place order” on March 16, 2020, and appears almost last to recover from shutting down all but essential services in order to stem the transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“As the region recovers, it is clear that the pandemic has permanently changed how and where people work, how businesses think about their location decisions, and where households choose to live," notes the project summary of the report. “These effects appear to be most visible in expensive coastal regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Austin, Texas ranked first across the 25 regions in the study, scoring an average of 86 (out of 100) across the 15 metrics evaluated, according to the report's index methodology:

Within these metrics, it ranked first (100/100) on 6 metrics: job growth, “knowledge worker” growth, population growth, labor force growth, net absorption, and new housing units per capita. It also scored high (second only to Denver) on change in sales tax revenue – experiencing an increase of $33 million (or 13%) from 2019 to 2021.

These figures speak to the dramatic resilience and growth Austin, and Texas as a whole, experienced  during the pandemic, while coastal cities like San Francisco and New York continue to suffer losses.

Related post detailing the population loss in the Bay Area: State Estimates Show Third Year of Population Loss for California, February 5, 2023,

Hat tip to my local paper, the San Mateo Daily Journal.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 in Bay City News Foundation

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Urban sidewalk shaded by large mature trees

Cool Walkability Planning

Shadeways (covered sidewalks) and pedways (enclosed, climate controlled walkways) can provide comfortable walkability in hot climates. The Cool Walkshed Index can help plan these facilities.

June 1, 2023 - Todd Litman

Traffic on the 405 interstate freeway through the Sepulveda Pass at Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California

Congestion Pricing Could Be Coming to L.A.

The infamously car-centric city is weighing a proposed congestion pricing pilot program to reduce traffic and encourage public transit use.

May 30, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

A spraling subdivision of single-family detached housing in a desert setting.

Albuquerque Poised to Legalize Accessory Dwelling Units

Allowing ADU construction on parcels previously zoned exclusively for single-family detached housing is one component of the Housing Forward ABQ initiative, a larger effort to reform zoning practices in Albuquerque.

2 minutes ago - Albuquerque Journal

"Welcome to Texas" road sign with Texas flag and "Drive Friendly - the Texas way" slogan

Report: Austin’s State Roads Deadlier Than City Roads

Traffic fatalities and serious injuries grew on state-owned roads in the Texas capital, even as city-owned streets saw death rates plateau.

1 hour ago - Smart Cities Dive

View from lakeside with green grass and pink blooming flowers

Who Benefits Most from Land Conservation Efforts?

A new study estimates that recent land conservation generated $9.8 billion in wealth nationally through the housing market and that wealthier and White households benefited disproportionately.

2 hours ago - PNAS

Project Manager III

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

UDO Transportation Planner

City of Charlotte - Charlotte Area Transit

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.