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Smart city plan unveiled

St. Albert’s smart city master plan is set to make its debut.

St. Albert’s smart city master plan is set to make its debut.

A draft version of the smart city master plan, with a staff recommendation to have one more month of consultation before finalizing the document, was due in front of council at Tuesday’s council meeting. The meeting took place after press time.

The draft plan includes a made-in-St. Albert definition for smart city: “an urban area that solves its core issues through innovation and collaboration, and that applies new technologies and data for the benefit of all.”

It’s a resident-driven master plan, said Coun. Cathy Heron in an interview. Heron is one of the council members on the committee, which is currently made up of her, Mayor Nolan Crouse, public members Bruno Peters, Anshuman Khare, Kevin Malinowski, Kim Upright and Bob Clark. The city’s smart city and innovation manager Travis Peter is the administrative committee facilitator.

“There’s a lot of great ideas,” Heron said. The plan recommends 22 strategies, many of which include supporting actions, to help St. Albert along in its pursuit of being a smart city centre of excellence.

Heron noted the committee developed a methodology to rank the strategies.

The draft plan, available as part of the May 24 council agenda package, shows municipal network connectivity was ranked as the top priority, which would connect municipal facilities with broadband Internet with a speed of at least one gigabit per second. Intelligent transportation systems, sensor networks and other connected assets and Internet connectivity for residents and visitors all tied for second.

Many of the actions meant to implement the strategies will come in front of council over the next couple of years in the form of budget project charters.

The plan shows some of the strategies could be quite costly to implement. The top ranked strategy, municipal network connectivity, could cost an estimated $2.5 million for just the first phase. But, the detailed write up shows the city currently pays about $600,000 per year to lease network bandwidth and is capped at 100 megabits per second. This means a positive return on investment could be seen in less than seven years due to reduction in lease costs.

A second phase could cost $6 million.

“Arguably the most fundamental requirement for a smart city is fast broadband connectivity,” the draft plan says.

Other actions, however, might not cost the city anything but staff time and external resources, like working with Internet providers to try and encourage improvements to residential Internet.

The committee undertook a variety of public consultations, from a survey to going in person to talk to high-school students.

The top issue raised by residents and businesses was improving traffic mobility. Expediting the development of an intelligent transportation system strategy for St. Albert was tied for second in how the committee ranked priorities, and could build on the city’s already existing systems.

Improving traffic mobility is an area where residents could benefit from the focus put on the three key outcomes included in the plan: greater municipal efficiency, enhanced service delivery and dynamic economic development.

“For day to day living, I think it’s just going to be more convenient,” Heron said of smart city benefits for residents.

The strategies run the gamut from open government and data initiatives to economic development with a smart focus to real time travel and parking information and installing a variety of sensors around town.

Smart city manager Peter said this plan will support other city plans if adopted by council.

“It’s intended to be an enabler around all of our other strategies,” he said.

The final public input period will end June 24, with administration bringing back a potential final draft in September for council consideration.