Streets designed around transit, walking, and cycling, combined with new mobility options and driverless cars, can eliminate the need to own a private car, saving families $4,000 a year. Sidewalk Labs discusses how strategy for growth can be both sustainable for Toronto and the planet, and inclusive for people of all backgrounds and income levels.


Mediaplanet: What are some of the main challenges that arise from rapidly-growing urban centres?

Sidewalk Labs: Toronto is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most popular and productive cities. The city boasts an exceptionally diverse population thanks to its welcoming immigration policies. People and companies are flocking here and nearly another 3 million will arrive in the GTA by 2041. 

But like a lot of successful global cities, Toronto has become less and less able to provide the opportunities that powered this growth in the first place. Home prices in the GTA have more than doubled since 2006, far outpacing income. As families are pushed farther from jobs, congestion has grown worse, with Toronto now having the second-longest average commute time in North America. That also creates a sustainability challenge at exactly the moment we need to be limiting the use of fossil fuels. 

How will Sidewalk Labs lead Toronto to be a global hub for innovation and a beacon for cities around the world?

We want to catalyze a new economic cluster on the waterfront focused on the emerging field of urban innovation. Our vision would be anchored by moving Google’s Canadian headquarters to Villiers Island, next to a new Urban Innovation Institute, an applied research centre that would bring together industry, academia, and entrepreneurs focused on how technology can impact cities. To further spur innovation, we’re committing $10 million to a new venture fund to support local Canadian early-stage companies and entrepreneurs. Manufacturing will benefit too, as investment in new advanced mass timber production will create 2,500 manufacturing job years and help Ontario and Canada lead this growing industry. 

The goal is to help accelerate this emerging industry that Toronto and Canada can lead, creating 10,500 jobs or more focused on urban innovation alone — part of more than 44,000 jobs that would be created by this project by 2040. We would build on Waterfront Toronto’s work to develop a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline that ensures this economic growth lifts all communities.