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Tuesday, October 8 • 1:45pm - 3:15pm
Maintenance and Smart Cities

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This panel will examine the roles of and conversations around maintenance in smart cities

Pamela Robinson: “State of Good Repair: Does it have a Future in the Smart City?”

The State of Good Repair is a dominant infrastructure benchmark for North American infrastructure management. This maintenance standard is used to guide municipal capital budgeting investments so that infrastructure is: able to perform its designed function; does not pose a known, unacceptable safety risk; and its lifecycle investments have been met or recovered (FTA 2016). The State of Good Repair (SoGR) standard has long been applied to Toronto transit and other infrastructure projects with one of its originator’s, David Gunn, holding the Chief General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission 1995-1999. The City of Toronto still uses the SoGR in its capital budget process as evidenced in myriad 2019 budget reports to Council. But Toronto is now home to a large smart city experiments – Sidewalk Lab’s Quayside. Will this standard be continue to guide capital investments in the smart city? This paper takes the form of a blog post that will explore the extent to which the State of Good Repair approach to infrastructure development manifests itself, or not, in the draft Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) for Quayside from Sidewalk Toronto. There are few smart city projects that have received as much media attention as this one but the majority of the focus thus far has been on privacy, surveillance, citizen resistance (e.g. #blocksidewalk) and private sector influence over public service provision. The MIDP will be the first real look into the business model for this project so it will provide an interesting opportunity to contrast Silicon Valley’s “move fast and break things” approach to test-bed urbanism with Toronto’s longstanding affection for SoGR. This blog post will explore the aforementioned elements of SoGR and help map the vision for the Quayside project onto the broader landscape of maintainer thinking and practice.

Kevin Rogan: “Care Against Growth: Making the Ephemeral Physical in Toronto's Smart City” (Advance Copy PDF Below)

Sidewalk Labs presents its smart city project in the Toronto docklands as a catalyst for “urban revolution”. There are several widely discussed aspects of this so-called “revolution”—the relationship between the city and technological progress, the extraction of data from citizens, and the ecological aspects of urban smartness, to name a few. I seek to investigate yet another tendency lurking inside Sidewalk’s proposals: to diminish the role of urban maintenance and labor. A number of Sidewalk's ‘public sphere’ innovations betray this hidden bias. These technologies either try to make labor disappear—for example, moving courier and delivery services underground into service tunnels custom built for this purpose—or to make labor into a diminished machine part of the city's functioning. This tendency appears most overtly in Sidewalk’s widely lauded use of ‘smart pavers’ for roads and public surfaces; despite their touted benefits of responsiveness and ‘plug and play’ features, they also are designed to be easily and quickly swapped out if broken. I argue that this design feature was not introduced to make things easier, but instead to reduce the minimally necessary amount of upkeep in their proposed physical-digital system, thus reducing the work of repair to mechanic process. This is fitting for a would-be administrator that thinks of the world in machinic terms. Against this technochauvinistic ideology, I propose that cities are messy systems, but not organic; they are concatenations of lived social knowledge. A celebration of caring and careful maintenance must be foregrounded.

Alexandra Crosby: “Can a Smart City be Slow and Small? Using Permaculture Principles to Maintain Space, Knowledge, and Neighbourhood?”

Can a Smart City be Slow and Small: Using Permaculture principles to maintain space, knowledge, and neighbourhood This paper throws together two seemingly opposing ideas, permaculture and smart cities, by looking at a collective maintenance experiment in a neighbourhood of Sydney, Australia. ‘Frontyard’, established in 2015, is located on Cadigal-Wangal land in Marrickville, a suburb at the frontier of some of Australia’s most ambitious urban development. The organisation is named for its uncharacteristically wild and shady entrance, now a hammock grove. Deeper in the property is an unassuming 1950s building with a large workshop room, two creative residency spaces, and a library, full of books, zines, exhibition catalogues mostly recomissioned from the national arts collection. In the library is also a large, Risograph Duplicator and a shared work desk. Out the back are four large productive garden beds with leafy greens, herbs, and strawberries. The Frontyard organisation (decision making, accounting, and archiving) is guided by permaculture principles, particularly principle no.9 ‘use small and slow solutions’. Frontyard also chooses, uses and maintains a wide range of digital technologies to connect to community and ‘sister spaces’ all over the world. Self proclaimed ‘janitors’, Frontyard organisers simultaneously maintain the property, and a range of systems for sharing knowledge. In doing so, Frontyard is modeling a preferred urban future where the metaphor of the smart city could refer to care, repair, inclusion and discovery.

Carole Voulgaris: "Autonomous Vehicles: Maintaining Inequality?"

Much has been made of the potential for connected and autonomous vehicles’ (CAVs’) potential to improve users’ quality of life by reducing the frustration and inefficiency associated with traffic congestion. Traffic congestion is a function of the ratio of the number of vehicles using a roadway (volume) and the maximum number of vehicles that the roadway can accommodate (capacity). Vehicle connectivity and autonomy could indeed reduce congestion by enabling fleets of vehicles to coordinate their movements more efficiently, thereby increasing the effective capacity of a roadway. However, since CAV users —freed from the task of vehicle operation— could use their travel time for more pleasant or productive activities, automation would also increase travelers’ tolerance for traffic congestion, increasing the demand for motorized travel and likely returning congestion to (and even beyond) levels experienced prior to the introduction of CAVs. The negative effects of vehicular congestion extend beyond vehicle users’ lost time to other harms shared with non-users, such as pollution exposure, climate change, and hostile land development patterns. By increasing travelers’ tolerance for congestion, CAVs have the potential to shift the burden of congestion-related harms from vehicle users to non-users. Since vehicle ownership is highly correlated with income —and this relationship may be even stronger for CAVs— this would represent a benefit to higher-income households at the expense of lower-income households. Well-designed roadway user fees, policies to facilitate ride sharing, and pairing of electric vehicle technology with AV technology could contribute toward a more just distribution of the benefits and harms of CAVs.

Tuesday October 8, 2019 1:45pm - 3:15pm EDT
6ABC (2nd Floor)