What makes a city a smart city? It’s not collective brain power, but rather smart technology.

Earlier this year, Happy City St. John’s partnered with the City of St. John’s in a Smart Cities Challenge. Organized by Infrastructure Canada, this national competition encouraged municipalities and Indigenous communities to solve local problems using an innovative, smart cities lens.

A smart city integrates technology into its infrastructure to improve the quality of government and the well-being of residents. Examples of existing integrated smart technology in other cities include using sensors to monitor and manage traffic congestion, air quality, and noise, as well as sustainable energy projects.

“Our health, both physical and mental, suffers when there are transportation barriers,” says Councillor Maggie Burton, who invited Happy City to participate in the Challenge. “Creating more predictable and seamless transportation solutions will fundamentally change how residents move around.”

Happy City invited St. John’s residents to complete a survey on mobility in their community. Most of the respondents live in the city core (West and East Ends, downtown), but some respondents live in the surrounding area and are invested in the development of St. John’s. 

Most respondents were between 25 and 54 years old, which was expected given that the survey was online, with respondents who are old enough to be engaged and young enough to be tech savvy. Therefore, the data may not be representative of the full population of St. John’s due to the inherent biases of online surveys.

Residents from virtually all regions of the city agree (by more than 50%) with using technology to enhance mobility in the city. Willingness to integrate technology and mobility increases the younger the age group, with the youngest respondents strongly in favour. The oldest age group expresses more uncertainty on this issue.

The question of whether the layout of St. John’s meets mobility needs is polarizing. There is no clear area or age demographic that is strongly in agreement or disagreement. Those in the East End and those aged 65-74 tend to agree that their mobility needs are met, while more residents of all ages tend to disagree on that point.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the car is king in St. John’s. Most respondents rely on a car to get around. The number of car users is lower for those living downtown and in the city centre, which we could attribute to higher density of amenities and services, and more walkable neighbourhoods.  

With sidewalks and trails as the second most frequently used method of transportation, we could infer that improvements to walkability in more areas of the city can help us see a reduction in reliance on cars. We noticed a spike in taxi usage from the oldest respondent group, which may indicate a willingness to pay for efficient services.

Overall we find that St. John’s has the potential to be more walkable. In conjunction with mobility technology, this could lead to a significant reduction in vehicle use.

Article By Catherine Burgess