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Professional Planners
Professional Planners

Ontario MARCH



Professional Planners in the Public Interest



Planning for the Digital City

hile technology is an issue all industries and examples of technologies RPPs should be using now and
professions are tackling, it is quickly playing a whether technology could replace the role of planners. The
larger role in the planning profession. The pace resulting insights were informative:
of technology has increased expectations and • Many members have experience with the day-to-day tools
complexities concerning information sharing, transparency of the job (e.g., email, word processing, and others) but are
and communications. seeking experience with emerging technologies such as 3D
Professional planners routinely gather and analyze modelling, drone technology, augmented/virtual reality,
information concerning all sides of an issue. Gaining an public consultation tools and web-based spatial mapping
understanding of emerging technologies applications.
and how they may influence decision-
• There is disparity in adopting technology between private
making and impact local communities is
and public sector organizations, and small and large
increasingly an important part of the
organizations, and access varies geographically.
RPP’s skill set.
However, the topic of technology is Building on this discussion, on September 20, I will host a
very broad, so it’s helpful to define it in Twitter chat concerning how technology is transforming the
practical terms that enable OPPI to roles of RPPs. I want to hear from you about the issues you
determine what it can do to help our think RPPs are facing as technology begins to transform your
members keep up with technological changes and prepare for role. More information on this Twitter chat can be found on
the next wave. In this regard OPPI reached out to members the OPPI website.
with a short survey about individual experiences with OPPI will use all this information to help guide and
technology, and how technology helps inform what you do. develop educational opportunities for members.
The response was overwhelmingly positive and contributed I hope you will be able to participate in this discussion. It is
to a fulsome discussion around the Council table, led by important that RPPs understand and can prepare for the
director Eldon Theodore. impact of technology on our profession.
The survey and subsequent discussion considered several
Jason Ferrigan, RPP
matters, such as member experience with all kinds of
technology, what members feel the biggest impact on their Jason Ferrigan, RPP, is OPPI President and director of planning
roles will be, barriers and adaptability of technology, for the City of Greater Sudbury.

project, which could become a global first for the integration
of digital technology in the built form. (See Technology’s City
Siren Songs of the Building Laboratory, OPJ Vol. 33, No. 1, 2018.) This project
represents city planning in a social,

Techno-future cultural, and urban design framework

with no historic precedent or contextual

By Rob Voigt, RPP, contributing editor Autonomous vehicles represent
another example of ground-shaking
echnology is significantly influencing the evolution technological change. At the very least
of our communities. In response, planners have the shift to this form of transportation
been adapting to these changes and integrating the will only increase and entire cities may
use of technology into their work. But are we experience almost perpetual motion as service is decoupled
responding and adapting quickly enough? from drivers, and ownership is shared.
Changes resulting from technology are taking place at such The community health impacts of this phenomena,
a rapid pace and significant scale that planners are only regardless of vehicle energy source, will be stunning as even
beginning to understand their implications. This more car-dependant development will be facilitated. An
compromises our ability to effectively prepare the increase in the conflict between vehicles and active modes of
communities we serve. transportation alone is anticipated to have a negative impact
One example is Google Sidewalk Lab’s Waterfront Toronto on community health.


Additionally, as this form of technology goes through its opportunity to lure Amazon’s investment with their unique
research and development phase, communities are being used characteristics and benefit packages. While the overall quality
as living test tracks. Regardless of the statistical arguments of life community attributes are undoubtedly considered, they
that might be made about levels of inherent danger in vehicle are secondary to the financially-oriented ones. Also, the
use, this burden on citizens, of being live subjects in ongoing compressed schedule of this process has not allowed sufficient
product testing, is extraordinary. time for the crafting of well-reasoned, fully costed, and
Planners need to engage in the dialogue about the contextually and culturally appropriate proposals. Nor have
implications of new technology and the expectation of our there been the public engagement processes we would expect
communities, not just about the transportation system to be associated with sound urban planning at this scale.
impacts. With the magnitude of financial influences of the From a corporate perspective, this approach may lead to an
automobile industry at play, and the physical changes this acceptable level of success for Amazon. If so, this will
shift in the current transportation paradigm represents, the undoubtedly be a process that is mirrored by other companies
ability of planners to have a meaningful role will be a very tall that feel they can exercise similar levels of influence on the
hurdle to clear. Unfortunately, planners are already laggards in competition for economic development. Planners must find a
this discussion behind engineering, technology and economic leading role in this framework, or the results could be
develop agencies that have created a framework that assumes disastrous with communities sacrificing their future for short-
utopian results and has essentially eliminated citizen term gain.
engagement. Planners do not yet have the skills or expertise to navigate
The next example is different, in that it is not the these new technology-induced forms of city building and
technology itself that results in the change, but the way it acts evolution. The profession is not currently equipped to rapidly
as a catalyst. The new business models of technology-focused adapt its citizen engagement strategies, legal and policy
companies allow for potentially staggering concentrations of frameworks, and urban design tools to adequately address
wealth. Which in turn, has increased their ability to exercise them.
influence on the communities within which they operate. In
Amazon’s case, this influence is exhibited by the way it has Robert Voigt MCIP, RPP is a professional planner, artist and
initiated the process to select a location for a new headquarter writer, recognized as an innovator in community engagement
campus. Through an RFP process, Amazon has changed the and healthy community design. He is the Director of Planning
dynamics of economic development and planning activities for Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities Inc., board member for
associated with the traditional site selection process. EcoHealth Ontario, and publishes Contact:
Through this process, communities have been given the @robvoigt,

BILL 139

Wood Bull LLP is pleased to announce the launch

of The Wood Bull Guides. The Guides are a
publicly available on-line resource related to key
land use planning legislaƟon in Ontario, focusing
on the changes introduced by Bill 139:
• Planning Act (AŌer Bill 139)
• Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017
• Local Planning Appeal Support Centre Act, 2017

Available for use at:

65 Queen St. W., #1400, Toronto, Ontario | 416-203-7306

Vol. 33, No. 5, 2018 | 23