Citizen Engagement: Join or Watch Sidewalk Toronto Smart City Public Roundtable

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The only way to make the neighborhood of the future a more sustainable, livable, and equitable place is by hearing from Torontonians of all backgrounds and perspectives. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited that more than 1,000 people have said they’ll attend the first Sidewalk Toronto public roundtable next Tuesday, March 20.

To help us hear from everyone, we’ve moved the event to a larger venue (the Metro Toronto Convention Centre) and will hold two presentations: one at 6 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m. You can find all the details here, although you don’t need to register to attend — the roundtable is open to everyone.

If you can’t be there in-person, you can still follow a livestream on the Sidewalk Toronto YouTube or Facebook page, or watch the archived video afterward. We can’t wait to share some of our initial ideas, hear about yours, and address the community’s questions head-on.

  • Related: Sidewalk Toronto Town Hall Feedback Report (PDF)

What we’re thinking

Ghost Town: The classic American “main street”  is walkable, full of daily services and amenities, and supportive of small businesses. It’s also vanishing, according to a new study by urbanist Emily Talen. Her research analyzed more than 46,300 blocks in Chicago and found that only 13 had all the traits of a great main street. In a Sidewalk Talk Q&A, Talen discusses what’s happening — and how cities can fight back (Medium).

  • Related: Sidewalk’s Jesse Shapins has been chronicling the stories of Main Streets across the U.S. since 2008 (Mapping Main Street)

House Call: We’ve long believed in the promise of Passive House, an ultra energy-efficiency standard for buildings that’s fast becoming mainstream in Europe but has yet to reach widespread adoption in North America. This week, Aileen Kwun explains what’s prevented its proliferation and profiles a real estate developer who says we’re on the cusp of a passive revolution (Co.Design). We actively concur.

What we’re doing

Open for Viz-ness: Last week, Sidewalk engineers released an open-source 3D visualization for the traffic simulator SUMO (Github). Our hope is that researchers and other urban-tech enthusiasts use it to demonstrate street scenarios to a wider audience. And though our screenshot only showed vehicles at an intersection, rest assured the tool can also visualize pedestrians and cyclists — including a “follow” feature that can help evaluate the quality of pedestrian infrastructure. More open-source releases:

      • An open geospatial library for the civic hackers out there (Sidewalk Talk)
      • Introducing Doppelgänger, an open-source population synthesizer (Sidewalk Talk)

Sign City: Sidewalk portfolio company Intersection has partnered with the Chicago Transit Authority to deploy a new IxNConnect system — interactive kiosks that display real-time transit information, including service updates and emergency messages, while also enabling location-specific ads (Curbed).

What we’re reading

Wait and C: At current rates, it will take 400 years to move our energy system away from carbon. But we only have decades. How do we inspire change “when the enemy is invisible and moving in slow motion?” (Tech Review)

Da Vinci(ty): When not painting, Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci was coming up with an urban innovation remarkably similar to modern-day zoning. Could his 15th-century approach help design 21st-century cities? (Co.Design)

Need for Speed: New Story has developed a 3D printer that can build a four-room house in under 24 hours. And they aren’t waiting for the tech “to trickle down to the regions with lean economies” — they’re starting there. (Wired)

Hedging Their Bits: The Mid-Columbia Basin, where electricity is plentiful and cheap, is a mecca for Bitcoin miners. Now the locals must decide how much of their futures will rely on this uncertain, unproven technology. (Politico)

Going Public: Long-time architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne is leaving his column for a job at City Hall reshaping the public realm. Why? He sees his city on the cusp of finally embracing its “public-ness.” (LA Times)

Should I Go Now: Laura Bliss takes a trip to the checkout-free Amazon Go store in Seattle and finds it easy, cheap — even thrilling. But it also makes her wonder: who is being excluded and at what cost? (CityLab)

Long: Rebuilding Puerto Rico’s Power Grid: The Inside Story (IEEE)

Look: Video: The Case for Fare-Capping (Streetsblog)

“Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”

— Stephen Hawking (Guardian)


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