Silicon Valley Infrastructure Overview
For the last four years I have been living and working as a programmer in the USA, in Silicon Valley. During this time, I have accumulated some observations that I would like to share. I will focus on infrastructure issues: what about transport, the Internet, roads, crime, water, entertainment, etc. I will only talk about what I met myself. I hope this post will be interesting to professionals who are thinking about working in the valley.
Means of transport
Roads and vehicles
The first thing I noticed when I arrived in the valley was the excellent quality of the roads. On the main highway there are usually four lanes in each direction. You can often go to the far left lane only when there is more than one person in the car. The speed limit is usually 105 km / h. Speed control is carried out by police, stopping the fastest citizens. It must be said that for 120 km / h they usually do not stop; but for 130 km / h they can write a fine. These two statements have been tested experimentally.
City streets vary in size: from one to perhaps four lanes in one direction. Speed limits from 40 km / h in residential areas and up to 72 km / h on major roads. There are no signs “main road” and “secondary road” as such, however, the signs “give way” and “stop” are used. Traffic lights are working properly, but a couple of times it happened that the traffic light hung on red and had to go like that.
A nice feature of the ride is turning right into a red light. So, upon reaching a traffic light at a red light, the driver must stop, skip the cars and you can turn right from the far right lane. It is necessary to stop: at some intersections there are automatic cameras that take a picture of the intruder. The cameras work efficiently; verified by experience.
Motor transport is a fairly affordable means of transportation. Due to the favorable climate, cars age slowly, so there are quite a lot of cars on the streets from all periods of the 20th century. Used cars are not very expensive. If prices are interesting, then you can look through the craigslist website : a lot of sales announcements are published on it.
Under Russian rights, you can ride for several months. Obtaining American rights is not difficult: you must pass the theory and driving. It seems to me that implementing Dijkstra’s algorithm is more difficult than passing it on to rights in California.
Drivers in the valley are quite polite, almost always giving way to pedestrians and other drivers. Non-verbal communication is very common: on the stop sign, wave to another driver with a hand, they say, drive through. Or wave to the pedestrian, they say, go, I miss. They usually answer with a smile and an open palm, they say, thanks.
Probably, someone will not agree with this, but I have the impression that public transport in the valley is exceptionally worthless.
For the sake of this article, I went to work by public transport for the past three weeks. I used the Caltrain trainwalking through the whole valley. Train stops are often far from their destination. The train is usually no more than 10 minutes late. However, once the train was detained for an "indefinite" time at one of the stations. Of course, that day I could not be late for a meeting.
Buses run very irregularly. Stops are not everywhere.
Taxis are few. Going out onto an arbitrary street and catching a car is almost impossible. However, there are sometimes taxis in the evening in the centers of local towns, often not far from bars.
There are few cyclists in the streets, but the conditions for them are very favorable. Many streets have a special lane for cyclists. Drivers are usually inferior to bicycles. You can’t ride bicycles on the highway, but you can get to almost any point on regular roads. It is nice that there are places for bicycles in public transport. So, in Caltrain there is a special carriage in which you can hook an iron friend to the handrail and sit nearby.
Used bikes are very affordable. Specific prices can be found on the craigslist . Bike rental is also available.
Although there are few cyclists, they willingly help if something happens. In the event of a breakdown, it is very likely that someone will stop and offer help or indicate the address of the nearest workshop. Verified by experience.
Water and electricity
Hot and cold water seem to work very stably. For four years, the water was turned off only once - the line was repaired. The water quality is acceptable: I constantly drink water from the tap and have never gotten sick from this.
Electricity in the USA is 120V / 60Hz, type A and B sockets . Electricity was cut off twice in four years, both times, it seems, due to a storm.
There are several internet providers in the valley. I used only Comcast . The Internet did not fail once, the connection almost always had a decent speed. For example, now speedtest.netshows 25 Mbps download and 4 Mbps download. However, I must say that I heard a lot of scary stories about the nearness of Comcast technical staff and complex bureaucracy within the company. Fortunately, I have not had to deal with this yet.
There are several mobile phone providers in the valley. I used only AT&T . The quality of the connection is unsatisfactory. Calls constantly drop, 3G shows two sticks almost everywhere. Tariff plans, in my opinion, are not flexible enough. Once I had to face the technical support of the operator. I could solve the problem only by yelling obscenities and threatening the court ( small claims court , to be precise).
From the words of my friends, I know that other operators do not differ in the quality of communication or technical support.
It is worth noting that on the basic plans, incoming calls and SMS are paid by both the subscriber who sent them and the subscriber who received them.
It seems to me that one of the big problems with cellular communication is the connection of phones to specific operators. So, some devices can only be purchased with a contract for a couple of years. Plans without a phone exist, but you can meet the most unexpected limitations.
There are a number of postal services: public and several private. All work very well. Parcels arrive on time, in good condition. For four years not a single letter or parcel was lost. Perhaps the most unpleasant was the case when I ordered four large glass frames and one came with a crack.
Postmen try to throw parcels on the balcony. Some houses have special boxes for parcels: a package is placed in an iron box, and the key to it is in the recipient's mailbox. In good areas, packages are simply left in front of the door. In general, I have never heard that a parcel was stolen from any of my friends.
Calculation between citizens and businesses is carried out in different ways. Here is a description of the main methods:
- Cash. Used very rarely. I usually carry no more than $ 10 in cash. Almost all daily settlements are carried out by cards.
- Debit Cards. Accepted almost everywhere. In order to issue such a card, you only need a foreign passport. Let me remind you that a debit card is when there is an account in the bank, and when calculating money is withdrawn directly from it. I must say that I rarely use a debit card, I use a credit card for most purchases.
- Credit cards. Accepted almost everywhere. You can apply for such a card at the bank. When I filled out my first card, I was asked to make a deposit. After six months of use, I seem to have proved that I am not a camel, I returned the deposit and opened a normal account. It is convenient to pay with these cards both on the Internet, and at gas stations, and even in restaurants where the check has a special “tip” column.
- Personal checks. After I opened a bank account, they sent me a pack of personal checks. I used these checks when I need to transfer large amounts. For example, once a month I send the landlady a check with rent. When I bought a car, I paid the seller the same check. To a friend who bought tickets for everyone, I also gave the money by check. However, checks have one drawback: I can write a check for the amount that I do not possess. Then the person to whom I wrote the check will not be able to cash the check in the bank, and, most likely, will be very unhappy. Here the following types of payment come to the rescue.
- Money order and Cashier's check . These two types of pieces of paper are essentially the same thing: a check, the payment of which is guaranteed by a bank or a large organization. To get such a piece of paper, you must first give them your money. I used this type of payment only to pay for the services of some government agencies. For example, the Russian and Canadian consulates.
ambulance and the police arrive very quickly, within 10 minutes. While the car is traveling, 911 operators remain on the line and give advice on what to do until help arrives. Verified by experience.
I must say that ambulances and firefighters always miss on roads and highways. Even in the most severe traffic jam, I saw emergency vehicles make their way through a swarm of cars.
Medical care is available with insurance. Many employers pay employee insurance. Insurance in the US seemed to me one of the worst institutions. It is necessary to carefully choose the plan. You can choose an HMO plan when all the care takes place in one clinic or PPO , when the patient can choose a doctor. The wrong choice of type of insurance for a couple with a non-standard ailment can lead to very large treatment bills (in the region of tens of thousands of dollars). Fortunately, I have never encountered any serious problems, so I know about horror stories only from the words of acquaintances.
Car insurance and accidents
Basic car insurance is required. Compulsory insurance must pay for the breakdown of another car (like OSAGO). I used only insurance from Geico . My car is fully insured (like CASCO).
I will illustrate the work of the insurance company: once I crashed into a healthy jeep. The fault was completely mine. The jeep driver laughed, took off pieces of my car from his iron bumper, took information about my insurance company from me, gave his information and drove on. After a couple of minutes, the police arrived at the scene. They helped drag my car out of the way. Upon learning that there were no victims and that the other side didn’t need anything from me, the officers left without even asking for my name. I called a tow truck and drove the wrecked car to my favorite service. After I called the insurance company and told about the incident and about the service where I took the car. Then I gave the service information about my insurance company and wandered home. I followed the further process on the Internet: an agnet came from the insurance company to the service, took a picture of the damage, posted them on the site, approved the repair price. After a couple of weeks, I stopped by and picked up the car. The repair cost was about $ 7,000, I paid a franchise of $ 1,000.
There are areas in the valley where the locals did not recommend me to appear. To kill - they will not kill, but they can put a knife and demand money. However, as I have already noted, the police arrive at the crime scene quite quickly. Verified by experience.
In San Francisco, there are so many homeless people on the streets. For the most part, they seem to be harmless. However, in the evening, walking around the city is not very pleasant for me. I must say that there are not many homeless people in the valley. The centers of local towns are more pleasant in the evening.
I rented only apartments in apartment complexes. Prices seem pretty reasonable. For specific numbers, I would again go to craigslist .
In the complexes there is a swimming pool, a small gym, tennis court or private parking. These amenities and the location of the complex determine the cost of living. In all the complexes in which I lived, the landlord paid for water and garbage, and I paid for the electricity myself. In one of the complexes, the apartment was equipped with a gas heater: I also had to pay for gas myself.
I have never met unpleasant neighbors. However, I must say that some of my friends had to live with strange people. To ordinary troubles like a drum or very heated quarrels, a specific smell from the kitchen is added.
Interestingly, not every complex allows pets. Friends say that kote is allowed more often than dogs.
There are a lot of shops in the valley. You can find products for every taste. I will try to describe by category:
- Food. It should be noted that there are a lot of products with suspiciously long shelf life in stores. However, you can find shops selling fresh meat, fruits, vegetables and bread. In addition to ordinary self-service stores, there are markets. Markets, farmers' markets gather on certain days. There you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and some cooked food directly from farmers.
- Russians. There are several Russian shops in the valley. There you can find doctor's sausage, brown bread, kvass, sprats, cottage cheese and books in Russian. These stores also have newspapers in Russian. On these newspapers you can follow the life of the Russian community.
- Household. There are a lot of stores, usually self-service stores. I note only that because of the English system of measures it is very difficult to choose the right sizes of building materials.
- Clothing stores. You can find shops for every taste: from the cheapest to quite expensive. In an hour's drive from the valley, in the city of Gilroy , there are dozens of shops selling branded clothing at a good discount. I usually go there a couple of times a year and buy everything I need on the same day.
- Electronics stores, bookstores and others. These stores, of course, are offline. However, most of the purchases I made through Amazon or eBay
The selection of restaurants in the valley is great. Almost all cuisines are presented: from American to Ethiopian. It should be noted that the nationality of the restaurant often coincides with the nationality of the chef. Usually, you can have a very decent lunch for $ 12. The cost of dinner depends heavily on the restaurant, the ordered food and alcohol. There are very few Russian restaurants, and in those that have, the atmosphere is recreated very accurately.
There are quite a few bars in the valley. Since alcohol cannot be sold after 2 in the morning, many bars close quite early. For example, one of my favorite places, Gourmet Haus Staudt , closes at about 10 p.m. The kitchen closes for about 20 hours. By the way, it was in this bar that at one time an employee of Apple lost the prototype of iPhone 4 .
Silicon Valley is located on the San Andreas Fault . Earthquakes in the valley are not uncommon due to this. For four years I remember three earthquakes: the walls swayed and some things fell to the floor. These, of course, were rather minor cases. However, major earthquakes occurred not so long ago. It is always very interesting to watch the current earthquakes on the site of the US Geological Survey .
It is also worth noting that most insurance does not cover earthquake damage.
Most public places are non-smoking. Bars, restaurants, night clubs - everywhere there is this ban. Signs are hanging next to some institutions: “Smoking is prohibited within a radius of five meters.” Most rental apartments and hotels prohibit smoking inside. Smoking on the balcony is usually possible.
Cigarettes are sold in almost many grocery stores. Almost every town in Silicon Valley has a special tobacco shop with cigars, tobacco for pipes, etc. Often, such shops have a special smoking room.
Museums and concerts
In the valley of museums and concerts quite a few. For this, you usually need to go to San Francisco. There, however, is plenty.
The permanent collections of large museums did not seem very wide to me. However, temporary exhibitions change a couple of times a year. Often exhibitions come from Europe. For example, last year a very interesting exhibition of impressionists from the d'Orsay Museum came.
Modern and classical music is represented very widely. I managed to listen to my favorite electronic group, and the Russian ska group, and Temirkanov's concert.
You can watch a movie anywhere. There are a lot of modern cinemas. It is interesting that tickets are sold without seats: you buy a movie ticket, go through the control and sit down, where there is a place. There are usually places. However, if you come to the premiere of a famous movie, you can also stand in line and look at the fans in costumes of heroes.
I want to note the Stanford Cinema : they show old black and white American films. You can get to the right movie, where they tap on the organ.
Hobbies and sports
Support for various hobbies is very broad. Whatever I did, be it calligraphy, or typography, or microelectronics, or photography, or drawing - for everything there was a small shop with all the accessories and a club of the same enthusiasts.
Sports equipment and clubs are also very well presented. Alas, I don’t do much sports. However, my friends play soccer with colleagues and play hockey and run the annual marathon in San Francisco and play tennis.
Silicon Valley is located in downtown California. You can drive to San Francisco in an hour, and to Los Angeles in seven hours. In winter, you can ski and snowboard on Lake Tahoe, a four-hour drive away. In the summer, it's nice to walk in Yosemite Park, also a four-hour drive away. It is worth noting that in the valley itself there are quite a few parks where you can walk, run or ride bicycles.
The nearest ocean access is an hour away. Cooling water all year round. I splashed only once on a hot day. I ran out much faster than I ran.
From San Francisco you can fly to different parts of the United States. A ticket to New York costs about $ 400. The planes are working properly, I have never met with delays or loss of luggage.
I can’t pretend to be objective. And yet, I hope you find my review interesting.
I will be glad to any additions and questions on the topic.
UPD. I highly recommend reading the comments on this post. There are many interesting things: approximate prices, ocean temperature and the problem of medical marijuana.