INNOVATION: Smartening up in Surrey

The City of Surrey is being noticed for its innovation.

Coun. Bruce Hayne sits in Surrey’s Traffic Management System headquarters

SURREY — At the Globe 2016 Vancouver conference earlier this month, Surrey sat on the stage with Singapore, New York and Amsterdam to talk sustainability.

“Which city doesn’t belong in this list?” mused Coun. Bruce Hayne, chuckling. “The obvious little guy in the room is Surrey.”

But Hayne said Surrey “belonged on that stage.”

Surrey was recently named one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities by New York-based think tank Intelligent Communities Forum for the second year running.

ICF praised Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard, where the city, universities and business are building clusters in health tech, clean tech and manufacturing.

“Surrey is a city in transition from a suburban past to a sustainable urban future,” noted ICF. “On this road, it seeks to leave behind a reputation for sprawl, crime and limited economic potential. Home to some of the richest and poorest neighbourhoods in the region, Surrey is building an innovation-based knowledge economy.”

The ICF praised Surrey’s plan to create dense, walkable city centres linked by light rail. The ICF also noted Surrey achieved a 70 per cent waste diversion target ahead of schedule and completed a district energy system for city buildings and future towers.

“When you consider the diversion of organics from the landfill and when you consider the green natural gas that’s produced in our district energy centre, it’s the equivalent of taking 9,300 vehicles off the road,” said Hayne. “Think of almost 10,000 cars in Surrey coming off the road. Sustainability is not just how our tree canopy’s doing. That’s important, yes, but there’s so much more.”

Surrey has made a choice to be innovative, said Hayne. The Smart Surrey Strategy, is “not just about broadband or big data. It’s not just about an economic strategy. It really crosses all areas,” he said.

Surrey has apps  for residents to submit complaints such as graffiti and illegal dumping. But Hayne is particularly proud of something in the works called My Surrey Portal that will allow residents to renew swimming lessons, pay a dog license, even pay property tax on a device.

Then there’s the city’s Traffic Management System which has been live for about 18 months. Utilizing more than 300 cameras staff can adjust light patterns. Green lights can be extended by a few seconds to ease congestion.

RCMP often use the traffic recordings for investigations.Just this week RCMP reviewed footage in connection to a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run.

Hayne said programs like this are “leading the way in terms of being able to interact with the community in a meaningful way and using technology to make our city better.”

But much more is to come.

KPU, SFU and Forsite Clean Tech have partnered to create a manufacturing facility in Cloverdale, which will allow manufacturers to commercialize products without leaving Canada.

And the city’s biofuel facility, expected to be built by the end of 2017, will be the first closed-loop system in North America. It will be able to process 115,000 metric tonnes of organic waste per year.

Meanwhile, Surrey is in the midst of updating its Sustainability Chater. Since creating it in 2008, the city has planted 75,000 trees, installed 10 public EV charging stations, created 562 units for the homeless and at-risk and created 630 kilometres of pathways for walkers and cyclists.

Comments on the updated charter will be accepted until March 29. Click here for more.

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