Partners in the South Island Prosperity Project received good news as the government announced that the group has been shortlisted for the Smart Cities Challenge. (File photo)

South Island Prosperity makes final push for Smart Cities

Winners in the Canada Smart Cities Project will be announced in mid-May

South Island Prosperity, a public-private economic development advisory group, recently submitted its bid to make Greater Victorians more mobile in the smart cities challenge, available now for view online.

The proposal is one of 10 finalists for two $10 million grants. Winners will be announced in mid-May.

The 72-page proposal has a multi-modal transportation focus and offers solutions on mobility for new employees to the area, Indigenous people and isolated seniors, who can have disabilities that prevent them from getting around.

“The issue of transportation is a big one here, it affects people’s lives, their quality of life, the ability to do business efficiently…The amount of time you spend travelling around here to get from point A to point B is completely out of balance for a community this size,” said interim CEO Bruce Williams.

ALSO READ: South Island Prosperity Project sends leaders to Shanghai for AI conference

The project outlines an Indigenous mobility pilot program that seeks integration into the region’s economy through a dedicated pickup and dropoff program.

“First Nations here have some pretty challenging issues when it comes to getting around. Lacking transit service and economic circumstances makes it difficult for them to engage within the economy,” Williams said.

The problems can be getting to and from schools and colleges and for jobs, he added.

“We’re a mid-sized city with big-city problems.”

The projects centred on transit as the main issue after consultations with cities and community members helped identify it as the biggest issue facing Greater Victoria. Consultations were done through a series of public events like symposiums, roundtables and committees, with the intention to collate the solutions and suggestions.

ALSO READ: South Island Prosperity Project brings Victoria to international AI stage

A social media campaign with the hashtag #freedomtomove was started. Surveys to find people’s transportation challenges and solutions were conducted, and a ‘mobility manifesto’ was also signed by many.

Thirteen municipalities and 10 First Nations in the region were consulted during the two years of preparation.

“We have municipal governments, First Nations governments, some of the largest employers in the region, three post-secondaries, some non-profits and some industry associations involved, so they’ve all been part of the conversation and the research that we’ve done” Williams said.

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Another solution proposed is a single payment method for transit. “If you’re gonna take the bus or take the ferry, and then do a car share or ride hailing or taxi or whatever it might be, one way would be to plan for it and pay for it all at once.”

The collective strategy makes the proposal unique to the category. Other cities that are up for the same category include Airdrie, Alta. and Glueph, Ont.

“Really fun and very successful” innovation challenges received over 140 proposals, including a winning electric trailer for a bicycle that boosts the rider along.

A jury of 12 people put in place by Infrastructure Canada will select the winners.

swikar.oli@goldstreamgazette.com


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