Inside the Toronto 'Smart City' Experiment
An interview with Rit Aggarwala, chief policy officer of Sidewalk Labs, delves into the company's experiment with smart city planning in Toronto's Quayside district.
Katherine A. Peinhardt writes a substantial introduction to the interview, writing for the Project for Public Space, so the discussion focuses on place, and technology's ability to rob places of charm. From the introduction:
But building great public spaces, more than any technology, requires a genuine focus on place. PPS has extensive experience in making places like waterfronts vibrant, people-centered places; keeping sight of local identity and prioritizing activity in a space are essential components of any successful project. If they are to take root, urban innovations — from autonomous vehicles to digital wayfinding — must keep these considerations and the community close at hand.
The interview starts with a discussion about the initial steps in Sidewalk Labs' process in Quayside before digging into what to expect from future steps in the process as well as from the technology that will eventually be deployed as redevelopment takes shape. Here's a sample of the discussion, as it focuses on the intersecting forces of real estate and transportation:
Q: How will the big plans for transportation outlined for Sidewalk Toronto support existing modes in the city, like the Subway and its streetcar?
A: Mobility is one of the areas where we have the potential to make a massive difference. It does hinge on an extension to existing modes of transit, as well as the creation of new forms of urban mobility. The fact is that none of what we hope for this site can be realized unless we get the existing transit system expanded into our site. You can’t create a successful urban neighborhood that has an entirely different transportation system. What we envision is a place where we can use both the power of overall real estate development and perhaps some innovative financing tools to work with the city, accelerating what the city already wants to do.
[Editor's note: the source article is from December—a bit dated by Planetizen standards but shared for its ongoing relevance to questions about the shape cities will take as "smart cities" technology evolves and takes shape in cities.]