Archive for the ‘Going Green’ Category

planning for a rainy day

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

planning for a rainy day

If you’ve ever stood at the bottom of a hill in a field or forest at the end of a sudden summer rain shower, you’ll have seen how water naturally runs down to the lowest point, then gradually drains away, soaking into the ground and running into the nearest stream or pond. Obviously, water will always drain in a downward direction, even when a site becomes developed by roads or buildings. Engineers use what are known as “storm water management” techniques to minimize the negative impacts of changes in drainage associated with new development and construction.

The drainage needs of the widened road network that are being built for vivaNext are no different from those in a new housing development or a natural forest: at the bottom of every hill, water will collect and need to be drained away somewhere. So, storm water management has one overarching goal: to mimic as much as possible the natural, pre-developed conditions of a site in terms of both how water drains, and the quality of the water that is being drained.

There are a number of tools that are used in storm water management, depending on the situation. On the vivaNext rapidway project, the primary tool is the storm sewer system. Storm sewers run under the roadway, collecting water that runs off the road through storm sewer inlets. These inlets are either set horizontally into the road beside the curb, or vertically into the curb itself.

The more an area is developed or paved the less permeable ground there is to absorb run-off, resulting in more water needing to be drained through the storm water system. Specialists do hydraulic calculations to determine how much water will collect on the roadways during a typical storm, and ensure that the storm sewer system can drain it away promptly. Storm sewers drain into the naturally occurring creeks and streams that exist throughout our urban areas, although many have been buried so you won’t be aware of them. In some areas, these pipes may be aging and ready to be replaced to accommodate the increased volumes of run-off.

In addition to preventing flooding, the other critical component of storm water management is to mimic the natural conditions where rainwater is filtered through the ground, leaving the eventual run-off as clean as possible.

To replicate this natural filtering mechanism on roadways, water collected in the storm sewers runs through a special filter called an Oil Grit Separator [OGS] before it is released into a creek or stream. OGS are designed to capture substances like grit, oil and sand that collect on a roadway and get washed away during a rainstorm.

Another tool to improve the quality of run-off is the use of storm water management ponds, which contain and filter the outflow from storm sewers in a more natural way, trapping the grit and oil in their muddy bottoms, producing cleaner water that flows into watercourses or pipes.

Storm water management is an important issue that is overseen by a variety of approving bodies, including federal and provincial ministries, and in the case of our vivaNext projects, two conservation authorities.

How we plan drainage for water is one of those important components of any project that will be unseen to most. But whether or not you can see it, respecting the natural environment is important to everyone, and in the last few years the storms and crazy weather we have experienced have truly made that more apparent!

 

welcoming all cyclists

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

welcoming all cyclists

We’ve been focusing recently on all the features of the new rapidways as we wind up construction on Highway 7 to Town Centre Boulevard – a project that will make transit truly rapid along Highway 7 East. Many of the design features were developed to ensure that all users of the Highway 7 East corridor feel welcome and secure as they enjoy the new rapidways.  Cyclists make up a large percentage of commuters so ensuring their safety, as well as the safety of other motorists and pedestrians, is important in creating convenient and cohesive roads. Biking is a healthy, environmentally friendly way to get around, and the vivaNext corridors are helping to facilitate this. Viva vehicles now have bike racks on the front for easy loading as you travel around York Region.

The new bike lanes will extend 5 kilometres, from Chalmers to South Town Centre Boulevard with lanes on both the north and south sides of Highway 7. Unlike in many urban settings, York Region cyclists will have these lanes to themselves. Our new bike lanes are “dedicated,” meaning they’re not shared at any point with other vehicles.

We’re following the established safety standards, making the bike lanes 1.4 metres wide, with an additional half metre for a buffer zone between the bike and traffic lanes. Also, to give maximum visibility for the bike lanes they’ll be painted a high-contrast green in areas around intersections, with special bike lane markings to clearly identify them mid-block.

With the high volume of traffic, bike lanes will provide a much more comfortable and secure environment for cyclists riding along Highway 7. Eventually cyclists will want to turn right or left from Highway 7. Waiting in the left turn lane with vehicles to cross multiple lanes of traffic and the rapidway wouldn’t be safe on a bike, so we’re adding another feature to make the experience better for cyclists. They’re called bike boxes, and they’ll make the corridor more welcoming to cyclists.

Here’s how they work. Cyclists turning left from Highway 7 will proceed through the signalized east/west intersection in the bike lane into the far side  then stop in a protected area, reserved for cyclists, tucked into the boulevard on the far side of the intersection. This area, known as a “bike box,” will offer cyclists a waiting zone while they wait for the light to change. Once the light changes, they will then cross Highway 7 along with other north/south traffic. For a demonstration, see York Region’s video about bike boxes.

The bike boxes will be clearly marked with green paint like the bike lanes and other markings, so drivers and pedestrians will know they are for cyclists only. Permanent bike boxes will be put in place this fall and replace the painted ones on the street, so by next spring cyclist will have a great new pathway to follow, with the latest of features

We’re excited to be providing these new features for York Region cyclists, and know that they’re going to help make this corridor much more welcoming to all travellers, no matter how they choose to get around.

 

hug a tree

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Maybe it’s time to rethink the age-old saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” According to a new report from TD Economics, Toronto’s dense, urban forests are providing more than $80-million of savings and environmental benefits every year. The report looks at Toronto’s urban forest of 10-million trees from an economic perspective, calculating the value each tree provides by saving energy, keeping rain and snow off the streets, and absorbing pollution. Even with maintenance costs factored in, the city’s trees are returning between $1.35 and $3.20 for every dollar spent.

Although the report focuses specifically on Toronto, the value in planting and maintaining trees can be attributed to any city in which you live. In fact, benefits can have more than just monetary value. Beautification, green space for recreation and importance to the residents are benefits that are difficult to calculate or define, yet still contribute to the landscape of a thriving community. The report also found that a mature tree canopy adds significantly to property values, adding yet another layer of economic benefit.

York Region already has plenty of recreational parks and green spaces that enhance the beauty of its towns and cities. The vivaNext projects will further enrich these communities by ensuring plant installation and growth well into the future. In Richmond Hill and Markham alone, approximately 292 trees and 4,910 perennials and grasses will be planted along the Highway 7 East corridor and boulevards.  Our challenge with new plantings is to get them to thrive in the first 2 years, but luckily all new plants and trees come with just that – a 2 year warranty! Further planting and new greenery will also be installed on BRT corridors in Vaughan, Newmarket, and Richmond Hill, once construction is complete. Details about the different types of trees and the selection process can be found in a previous posting.

Our hope is that the growth and maturity of the greenery reflects the prosperous growth of York Region over time. Especially during these warm summer months, get out and appreciate the beauty and colour that surrounds you. Hug a tree!

 

long, cold winter leading to plant woes

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

long, cold winter leading to plant woes

This past winter’s sub-zero temperatures, heavy snowfalls, driving winds and ice storm will go down as one of the longest and harshest on record. The effects of the ice storm are still being felt here in York Region, as we start to take stock of our plants, trees and shrubbery this spring.

In one of our earlier blogs, we talked about the trees, perennials and grasses that we’ll be installing in the planters in medians and boulevards along the Highway 7 rapidway between East Beaver Creek and South Town Centre Boulevard. Like you, we have noticed that some of the perennials and grasses have not come back this spring.

All the trees, perennials and shrubbery on Highway 7 are under a two year warranty and we are monitoring their growth to see if they need to be replaced or will come back throughout the spring and summer months.

We are hopeful that the chilly winter will result in better soil, leading to healthier gardens. Soil science shows that the cold weather creates pores in the soil, which naturally aerates plants. The colder it gets, the deeper frost penetrates. When the frost melts, it leaves pockets in the soil. Winter damage is always factored into gardening in Canada, as we assess our plants every spring and replace the ones that didn’t survive.

With all this in mind, vivaNext is committed to maintaining our new landscaping which will make Highway 7 much more attractive, pleasant and welcoming for everyone.

 

 

building healthier communities

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

building healthier communities

What if I told you that taking public transit can significantly improve your health? The Toronto Star recently reported on health professionals in the Greater Toronto Area [GTA] who agree that when it comes to land-use and transportation planning, more consideration must be given to encouraging residents to walk, cycle and use public transit.

How our communities are designed influences how we choose to get around, so making transit and active transportation integral to city planning can contribute to healthier, more active lifestyles. Instead of driving your car, choosing to bus, bike or walk to work are alternatives that mix pleasure and health benefits. Also, the article mentions that taking public transit can easily add 30 minutes of physical activity into your day because it can include walking to and from bus stops or subways.

One of the benefits of designing a major infrastructure project like vivaNext is the opportunity it provides to enhance our natural environment wherever possible. In addition to the new rapid transit system, the urban transformation that vivaNext is helping to shape will result in more walkable, people-friendly neighbourhoods that encourage pedestrians and cyclists to get out and enjoy their local environments. What’s great is that residents now have safe choices in how they want to travel.

The new communities in the urban centres will be mixed-use, meaning they’ll offer residential, employment and recreational options. With convenient access between these new urban neighbourhoods and an expanding rapid transit network, people can travel across York Region and into the rest of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA] without needing a car, making the centres an attractive option for people who want an urban lifestyle within York Region. These new urban hubs will offer walkable, bike-friendly and people-centred neighbourhoods that will be welcoming to people at all stages of life – from young professionals to empty nesters, making York Region a great place to live.

 

choosing plants for colour, form and structure

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

If you’ve ever tried to fit a load of plants from a garden centre trolley into the back of your car, you’ll know that 292 trees and 4,910 perennials and grasses is a lot of plant material.

That’s the number of individual plants that we’ll be installing in the planters in medians and boulevards along our Highway 7 rapidways between East Beaver Creek and South Town Centre Boulevard, from now until the end of June.

As we’ve described in earlier postings, the plant selections were made carefully, and reflect expertise from our Landscape Architects and York Region’s own Forestry Department.  Plants in the planters need to be hardy and strong to be able to withstand the tough conditions imposed by their surroundings.  Not only do they need to be generally low maintenance, but being so near traffic means they have to survive wind, drought and salt-spray in the winter.

Another key requirement is that trees under hydro lines need to be naturally compact so that they don’t conflict with the lines overhead and can grow to their full potential without needing to be pruned.

So the final list was carefully developed with all these requirements in mind, and includes a wide range of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses.  Trees include Kentucky Coffee tree, Ivory Silk Tree Lilac, and Ohio Buckeye, all of which are well regarded as decorative, long-lived trees.

Tree plantings will also include Skyline Honey Locust and Accolade Elm, both of which are prized as street trees for their vigorous growth and adaptability to tough growing conditions (and in the case of the latter, resistance to Elm disease).  Rounding out the tree selections, the Autumn Blaze Maple and Bradford Pear will provide colour interest and welcome shade.

Along the medians and in the boulevard planters, there is a wide range of grasses, shrubs and perennials which will provide form and colour throughout the year.  Most are familiar to home gardeners, such as varieties of red twig dogwood, shrub roses and Euonymus.  Mugho Pines and various forms of juniper will offer structure to our planters in the winter.  And grasses, daylilies and coneflowers will provide flower interest in the summer.

With all these plants the boulevards and vivastation platforms will be more appealing to pedestrians and transit riders, who will appreciate the shade and colour up close.  But even from a distance, the addition of new landscaping will make Highway 7 much more attractive and pleasant for everyone passing through, and will add to the feeling that this increasingly urbanized corridor welcomes all users.

 

earth hour 2014 – celebrating our commitment to the planet

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Nelson Mandela – “Let us stand together to make of our world a sustainable source for our future as humanity on this planet”

Earth Hour is an annual global event that is held on the last Saturday of each March to raise awareness of climate change, and to encourage each of us to make choices that will lessen our impact on the environment. This remarkable initiative first began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 with 2.2 million Sydneysiders [A native or inhabitant of Sydney, Australia] and 2,100 businesses taking part. To date it has grown to over 6950 cities and 152 countries worldwide.  In 2012 Vancouver was recognized as the first Global Earth Hour Capital. The City of Vancouver has set green targets of being a global leader on climate-smart urban development. Vancouver aims to have all newly constructed buildings be carbon neutral in their operations by 2020.

In reflecting on the true meaning of Earth Hour it raises the question – why wait until March 29 at 8:30pm to make a difference in saving energy or working to reduce climate change? Why not make small changes throughout the year? Small changes like carpooling or taking public transit will help reduce vehicle emissions and pollution. We are seeing these everyday changes right here in York Region with a 38% increase in ridership and over 22.7 million riders on YRT\Viva since 2005.  With the section of the rapidway that is open on Highway 7, you can hop aboard a Viva bus and cut your commute time by up to 40% during the rush hour commute.

Once vivaNext rapidway construction is completed, the sustainable transformation of this urban corridor will support growth, and reduce congestion to help make York Region an even more inviting place to live, work, shop and play. These benefits extend well beyond York Region. For example, the rapidways will also play an important role in a seamless transit system across the GTHA, helping to reduce traffic congestion, increase productivity and provide sustainable alternatives to car use, which help reduce our environmental impacts.

If we all tried, even for one day, to reduce our environmental footprint it would be a symbolic demonstration of our commitment to reducing climate change.  Don’t forget to power down this Earth Hour, our planet will thank you.

 

Working together to achieve transit success

Friday, May 24th, 2013

You have heard us talk a lot about growth at vivaNext.  Managing growing communities and planning for the future are always top of mind. As the region that comprises nine local municipalities and is home to 1,084,000 residents, 29,000 businesses and 495,000 employees, York Region is the fastest growing region in the Greater Toronto Area. We are always striving to identify key opportunities to improve upon and expand rapid transit plans to support the Region’s increasing population.

The successful execution of the vivaNext rapid transit plans rely on collaboration. While collaboration seems like a long word that has enough syllables to leave you tongue-tied, to me the definition is simple – working together as a team. At vivaNext we strive to work hand in hand with all our stakeholders and neighbours. With open dialogue and information exchange we do our best to listen and address comments and concerns.

Our rapidways are being built along the Region’s busiest corridors where urban development is taking shape. Check out a few municipal videos showcasing local growth.

VivaNext is proud to be bringing York Region an exceptional transit system that will connect it to the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

vivaNext celebrates Earth Day 2013

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

On Monday, April 22, over 1 billion people in 192 countries around the world took action in their communities to tackle environmental challenges and vivaNext staffers were among them. We celebrated the 43rd annual Earth Day by sporting viva blue and going out to the future site of the Leslie Street and Highway 7 vivastation where we planted an Ohio Buckeye tree, the first of many trees and shrubs to be planted along the rapidway corridors being constructed in York Region.

But that was just the beginning, among the environmental benefits of the vivaNext project will be the improvements to the streetscape along York Region’s key corridors. A key part of those improvements will be carefully planned landscaping, including street trees planted at regular intervals for beauty and shade.

We’ve also used a little science and technology to ensure these trees survive in such a tough urban environment. Large trees need a lot of soil around their roots. In a boulevard, there’s only so much room for soil, so trees generally don’t have the underground space they need to grow strong roots and take in nutrients. On Highway 7, vivaNext is using an ingenious solution called “soil cell technology.” This refers to the cutting-edge approach of constructing a rigid form underground that can be filled with soil and then covered up by sidewalks or even roads. Plantings along the new viva rapidways will include a variety of trees, shrubs and grasses to create the green environment we all appreciate.

We certainly feel a strong connection with the values of Earth Day here at vivaNext; our rapid transit service is a key part of achieving smart growth goals and creating better connected, more livable communities in York Region. On Earth Day, and every day, we work hard to design and build a rapid transit service that offers a green travel alternative, makes it easier for you to get around, and helps to shape growth in an environmentally friendly way.

Check out our video and tell us if you participated in any Earth Day activities or submit your own video!

Why wait for Earth Hour? We can take steps to protect the planet today!

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

At 8.30pm on Saturday March 23, 2012 York Region residents will turn out their lights to pay homage to Earth Hour. This symbolic event unites millions of people around the world who are collectively working together to ensure our planet prospers for future generations.

Since Earth Hour was adopted by Canada in 2008, York Region residents have risen to the challenge of powering down for one hour. PowerStream, the local distribution company that services much of York Region reported 7.8% less electricity used in 2012 between 8:30 and 9:30pm, in comparison to a typical consumption pattern normally experienced on a similar type of day.

In reflecting on the true meaning of Earth Hour it raises the question – why wait until March 23 at 8:30pm to make a difference in saving energy or working to reduce climate change? Why not make small changes throughout the year? Small changes like carpooling or taking public transit will help reduce vehicle emissions and pollution. You can hop aboard a viva or YRT bus for the day, we would be happy to see you.

Once vivaNext rapidway construction is complete it will improve travel times and help create great renewed destinations to live, work, shop and play in Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Newmarket.

If we all tried, even for one day, to reduce our environmental footprint it would be a symbolic demonstration of our commitment to reducing climate change.  Don’t forget to power down this Earth Hour, our planet will thank you.

What will you be doing during Earth Hour 2013?

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