Coquitlam is one of the largest cities in British Columbia, situated at the meeting of the Coquitlam and Fraser Rivers. The city draws its name from the Coastal Salish people who first inhabited the area 9,000 years ago. In the modern era, Coquitlam has focused on this long and deep cultural history by establishing the Evergreen Cultural Centre as a venue for displaying arts and hosting local community events. Evergreen is home to the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the Coastal Sound Music Academy, the Coquitlam Youth Orchestra and the Stage 43 Theatrical Society. The city also features Place des Arts, a non-profit teaching arts center that presents concerts and exhibitions for the public. As its population continues to grow, Coquitlam has kept its focus on the people and their history and culture that serve as its strength and as an example for all those who might wish to one day call the city home.
Connecting the City with QNet
To ensure as many citizens as possible have access to fast, affordable broadband service, the city established the Coquitlam Optical Network Corporation (QNet) in 2008. QNet leases unused capacity in the city’s carrier-grade fiber optic network to local business and telecommunications companies, allowing them to offer high-speed internet, phone, TV, video and cellular services at some of the best rates in the country. Services are available to city business, schools and residential highrises, providing more choice in telecom service providers that encourages competition and keeping prices low. The network has gigabit-plus capacity, allowing for high-bandwidth activity such as telecommuting, HD video conferencing and virtual classrooms. As of 2020, QNet’s 60-km network is connected to 112 buildings in the city and has leased fiber to four service providers.
Providing a Space for Learning and Community Building
The Coquitlam Public Library provides a wide variety of services as well as a comfortable gathering space for residents of all ages seeking to learn, study and grow in the modern world. The library features two branches and one mobile library called Library Link. The Coquitlam Public Library offers access to large digital and print collections, as well as streaming services for music, audiobooks and movies and a Family Technology collection. Wifi is available free throughout the library, usable at its many computer stations as well as lendable laptops that may also be used outside the facility. The library also offers Playaway Launchpads, preloaded tablets with educational games for younger patrons, as well as Sphero and Ozbots, programmable robots for children. Printing, faxing and scanning services, including 3D printing and scanning, are also available to patrons, in addition to high-end creative and office software and digitization conversion equipment.
To help citizens make use of the many services at the Coquitlam Public Library, the staff offers a variety of programs to teach literacy and technology use for all age groups. Library staff provide technology, research and reference help in-person as well as online and via telephone to ensure all patrons have as much access to help as possible. The library branches also have several meeting rooms, study rooms and computer labs available for group work and community gatherings. As of 2018, over 41,000 people have attended programs at the library with more than 870,000 visits in total.
Planning for the Future with Everyone’s Help
Coquitlam began work on a Technology Roadmap in 2016 to serve as a guide for high level strategic development. The Technology Roadmap, presented to the City Council in 2018, helps the city to navigate the rapidly changing world of technology and choose the most effective solutions for improving business functions, operational efficiency and services to the community. The plan focuses on six strategic areas: improving citizen services and customer experiences, developing smart transportation solutions, maintaining public safety and security, improving operational efficiency and productivity, empowering staff to be better at what they do and migrating toward a “mart city” that collects and uses electronic data to improve operations. Based on the Technology Roadmap, the city has creating a mobile app to help citizens access important location information, expanded free Wifi access in city parks, created an interactive, digital wayfinding kiosk and interactive meeting room displays at City Hall and has implemented new project management software for the city.
Having seen improvements based on the Technology Roadmap, Coquitlam set out to gather more citizen input on other city issues and areas for growth. The city created the Viewpoint Online Engagement Panel in 2017, survey software that is available through any web-enabled computer or other device. Residents can participate in an average of two surveys per month, providing their opinions on city issues, plans and services, and can choose to respond to all topics or only those that most interest them. Opinions collected through Viewpoint allow the city to tailor its decisions and plans to citizens’ needs.
Promoting a Green City Through the Climate Action Program
Coquitlam signed the provincial Climate Action Charter in 2007 and took swift action to implement greener policies in a wide variety of areas. Annual project plans and budgets all include greenhouse gas emissions reduction, energy conservation and waste reduction concerns. Since 2012, the city has installed two energy-sharing systems, LED street lighting, lighting upgrades and controls throughout civic facilities, programmable thermostats, waste heat recovery systems, fleet right-sizing and electric fleet vehicles. Coquitlam also switched to compressed-natural-gas-powered automated collection trucks for waste management in 2014 and implemented a bi-weekly garbage collection schedule for single-family dwellings. Thus far, the city has seen a 23% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 15% increase in single-family dwelling waste diversion based on these policies. Coquitlam has plans to implement complete and compact neighborhood planning and design and a wide variety of sustainable transport initiatives in the near future.
In addition to focusing on climate change, Coquitlam focuses on improving community life through greenspace and forest management plans designed to protect the city’s over 2,000 acres of greenspace, including 80 municipal parks. The city has also developed extensive solid waste education and outreach plans, water-use restrictions, public access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure and environmental bylaws to protect Coquitlam’s natural resources. The local government works closely with residents, developers and businesses to ensure that guidelines are followed and that measures serve their intended purposes.
Coquitlam’s population boom began in the late 1940s, and the city is still growing rapidly today. The city has made impressive efforts to ensure all citizens live in a green, accessible and connected community and stands ready to meet the needs of an ever-growing population headed toward a prosperous future.
Photo by Greg Salter