IBM helps Ottawa light rail project

Ottawa's new light rail project is getting a helping hand for the next three weeks from corporate giant IBM.

The City of Ottawa was awarded the assistance of seven consultants whose work would have cost about $400,000 as part of winning the 2012 Smarter Cities Challenge.

Ottawa was one of two Canadian cities and 33 municipalities worldwide selected from over 150 submissions in the IBM’s 2012 Smarter Cities Challenge.

The experts will study and make recommendations on projects of local importance. For Ottawa, city officials chose to put those experts to work on the future light rail transit stations.

The work began Tuesday morning at planning committee.

“I am looking forward to IBM’s recommendations on how to create the right conditions needed to attract residents to live and work around these transit stations," said Coun. Peter Hume, who is also chairman of the city's planning committee.

"This will help us maximize the return on our investment in the light rail project.

The consultants have come from North Carolina, New York state, San Fransisco, Ca., and even Dubai to work in social media, analytics and IT.

Their work will include interviewing 75 people who are working as part of the light rail project, and then they will offer advice after three weeks on how to plan for the massive change to Ottawa's public transit future.

"Are we experts in light rail transit? No, not at all," said Dave Robitaille, who works on IBM Canada's philanthropy division.

"But we are experts in change management, organizational planning and communications and marketing."

The goal for the IBM representatives is to make the light rail stations true hubs and not just train stops along the line.

And more importantly, Robitaille said, they want the city to be effective with limited funds.

"Often times the cities have all these disparate departments that are creating data on various aspects of life and we're able to help them connect the dots on the data to help them make better decisions," he said.

Robitaille and the six other consultants will also live together in one home during their stay.

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