- A majority of Toronto residents (55%) support Sidewalk Labs' proposed Quayside smart city project in Toronto, according to a survey conducted by Environics Research and released by the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Only 11% of people opposed the project, and 34% said they either did not know or had no opinion.
- Amid concerns about how data collected at Quayside would be handled, 71% of those surveyed said that smart city data should only be kept under public control.
- Despite concerns about how the project would be handled by Sidewalk Labs’ parent company Alphabet, 76% said the partnership with the city of Toronto should continue “if it yields solutions to problems and taxpayer interests are safeguarded.”
Quayside promises to show cutting-edge smart cities technology, with adaptable infrastructure, underground delivery tunnels and street design meant to prioritize biking and walking in any kind of weather. The mixed-use development will accommodate 5,000 people, with 40% of its housing below market rate. More details leaked recently, showing that the project’s buildings will be built with timber to reduce the environmental impact, and the whole development will be built to run largely on solar and geothermal power.
Still, the project has been marred by concerns about data collection and storage; two advisory panel members resigned over what they saw as an apathetic approach to privacy (Sidewalk Labs eventually announced plans for a third-party data collector). CityLab reports that there’s a growing online campaign known as #BlockSidewalk, including an online petition to “stop the project, assess the lessons learned, address the policy issues and then consider a fresh start for the deal.” That resistance has grown after leaked details showed that Sidewalk Labs was considering expanding beyond the original 12-acre development and install smart cities tech — including gobs of sensors — along Toronto’s waterfront.
Sidewalk Labs has emphasized that plans are still fluid ahead of the 2020 groundbreaking, and the company continues to work with the local and federal government on security concerns. But the new survey results — which were taken before the latest leaked slide deck — should give organizers more confidence that the general public will support the plan (the survey was based on 600 interviews across Toronto conducted between Feb. 6 and Feb. 11). But in a statement, Jan De Silva, president of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, noted that "our support isn't unconditional."
"There's a process for Sidewalk Labs to confirm approval for their ideas with Waterfront Toronto and no less than three different levels of government. Public policy issues like data governance must be resolved as that process unfolds," she said.