The decision of city council to cancel core funding to St. Albert’s smart city program won’t stop the city’s efforts to pursue other smart city ventures, says Mayor Cathy Heron.
Smart city refers to efforts to create a connected and innovative community. Broadband, electric buses and digital services such as e-billing and online licence renewals are some of the projects that have fallen under the smart city umbrella in the past.
Councillors decided on Nov. 28 to cancel $96,000 in funding, which would have been used to develop a consolidated smart city mobile application as well as support core smart city initiatives.
That decision, which Heron voted against, came despite a report from Travis Peter, the city’s manager of smart city and innovation, that warned cutting funding would not only remove the application from budget consideration but also cut into the city’s ability to test new smart city pilot projects.
Now with the city’s 2018 budget formally approved, Heron said she isn’t worried about how that decision will impact the city’s pursuit of smart city.
“It won’t hinder it at all,” she said.
Increasingly, Heron said the city is looking toward what she has dubbed Smart City 2.0. The city is already doing work that, while less flashy than mobile applications, could fall under the smart city umbrella, she said.
“I think the Smart City 2.0 conversation we’re going to be having is how smart city stuff is bigger than an application,” Heron said.
One example is the Intelligent transportation systems strategy, which received funding for $300,000 in 2018 and will cost the same amount every year thereafter in the 10-year capital plan. In 2018, it aims to help streamline traffic flow on St. Albert Trail by installing equipment to allow traffic lights to change based on actual traffic levels.
Another smart city project comes in the form of St. Albert’s fibre expansion, which will continue in 2018.
“Sometimes, you have to distinguish between the fun, sexy stuff like an application and the behind-the-scenes stuff that residents don’t see but is still smart city,” Heron said.
While she expects smart city to be a topic of discussion at council’s upcoming strategic planning session, Heron said that conversation has already begun at the city administration level. Upcoming projects, such as a potential parkade, would be influenced by smart city developments such as autonomous vehicles.
“What I wanted out of the (smart city) master plan was for it to be permeated into the corporate culture so they think about these things,” Heron said.
“We’re starting to plan our city different just because we’re aware of the smart city stuff.”