St. John's vying for $10M prize to help make residents more active

St. John's is applying for a federal government initiative with a potential $10-million prize to make the city a healthier place to live.

City council and Happy City St. John's collaborating on application, seeking ideas from the public

Happy City St. John's chair Rob Nolan and Coun. Maggie Burton answer questions about the Smart Cities Challenge on Tuesday at Bannerman Park. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Got an idea on how to make St. John's a healthier and more active place to live? It could earn the city $10 million.

The City of St. John's and Happy City St. John's want public input in their application for a federal government initiative that could result in a $10-million prize to be spent on infrastructure meant to help residents get moving.

The Canadian Smart Cities Challenge is a federal government program to encourage communities to "seek smart, transformative solutions to big problems," according to a press release from the city.

St. John's is looking for input from the public on how to better improve mobility, such as public transit, during all four seasons. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The application for St. John's will focus on the development of an "integrated mobility network" that would combine transportation, planning and urban design to make it easier for people to get around the city year-round.

"It's designing transportation, it's designing an entire network based on the needs of the people. That includes public transit, vehicular transit, active transportation and bike lanes — all the ways in which people move around," said Rob Nolan, chair of Happy City St. John's, a non-profit organization that encourages discussion of civic issues in the city.

"Like a lot of cities, St. John's has focused on cars and vehicular transportation, and of course right across the city we see a large desire for more active transportation."

Smart tech

The Smart Cities Challenge is designed to inspire towns and cities to use smart technology in their proposals to overcome problems. St. John's is hoping to win one of two $10-million prizes designed for communities of fewer than 500,000 people.

If the city's proposal makes it to the final round, it will get $250,000, which would go toward analyzing data to help figure out what the problems are and finding solutions to them.

Bike lanes, which have been a contentious issue in St. John's in the past, will be one of the areas that the Smart Cities Challenge application will address. (Google Maps)

Coun. Maggie Burton said with the application's deadline of April 24, there's not a lot of time to get going, which is why they will be looking for public input over the next few weeks on how residents think the city could improve its mobility.

Unhealthiest city

While that public input is needed, Burton said it's clear from years of comments and complaints that St. John's needs to step up its game when it comes to helping people get around, which is why the $10 million could be such a boost for the city.

"There's a lot of data out there. We know people are unhappy with the way they can get around in the city, especially pedestrians," she said.

"We are the capital city of the unhealthiest province in Canada. People have to walk around in damp windy cold weather most of the year so that has led us to be a rather unhealthy province."

More information on the Smart Cities Challenge can be found on the Happy City St. John's website.

About the Author

Geoff Bartlett

CBC News

Geoff Bartlett is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.