Experts are skeptical about how all the experimental city-building techniques will fare in the real world, and they wonder what the consequences will be if one or more of the new technologies doesn’t work as intended. Multiple experts in urbanism across North America who spoke to the Financial Post all essentially said the same thing: They’re curious to see how the Sidewalk Toronto project plays out, but they’d be fighting the idea if it were happening in their backyard, because it gives too much control of city life to a private company, or because most people don’t want to live inside an expensive experiment.
Data issues were (also) a source of suspicion for David Wachsmuth, Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance at McGill University in Montreal. He said even if the plan appears to satisfy everyone’s concerns on privacy and data control today, it’ll be important to watch how those concerns change over time.
“There’s every chance that this thing gets built and 15 years later, or five years later, there’s just a slow creep of some of the data analytics stuff that was clearly motivating the project from the beginning. I just don’t think that the promises of scaling that back and putting that in a third-party trust are fundamentally reliable,” Wachsmuth said.