Archive for the ‘Going Green’ Category

trees do make you healthier!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Trees July16

As transit riders, most of you already know that taking transit can make you healthier. But now there’s a study reported by the Toronto Star that tells us that having trees on your street can not only make you healthier –but make you feel healthier.

As we continue to build new segments of rapid transit, we at vivaNext feel strongly that tree-lined streets help to make the new spaces more enjoyable to live and work in. They certainly create a welcoming, inviting environment that we can all feel proud of.

Click to read this fascinating article.

If you’d like to subscribe to email updates about the progress of the vivaNext project, click on this subscriber link, or go to our homepage at vivaNext.com and scroll down to “subscribe”.

realizing the vision of leafy, tree-lined streets

Friday, June 19th, 2015

realizing the vision of leafy, tree-lined streets

Planter boxes and trees are coming to Highway 7 in Vaughan! Along with the paving [have you heard about all the paving?] activity that’s been happening along the rapidway construction, you’ll soon be seeing crews building planter boxes between Jane Street and the CN Bridge.

The arrival of the planters is a big deal – to us and to the neighbourhood – because these structures will be housing trees and plants.

One of the most desirable qualities of a livable neighbourhood is the presence of trees. And at vivaNext, we have very deliberately designed the rapidways with this vision of a tree-lined, livable neighbourhood in mind. Part of our goal with the new boulevards is to bring to life the “complete street” concept – the guiding philosophy for our streetscape design.

As development continues and the population in York Region grows, it means that there will be more people walking and riding along the rapidway routes. So we’ve made sure that our boulevard design is going to be visually appealing as well as functional. And the trees and plants we’ve planted will grow to shade the area for everyone to enjoy.

If you want to see how green the Vaughan area of the rapidway will eventually become, take a look at Highway 7 East. The Markham section of the vivaNext rapidway is bursting with growing, thriving trees and greenery, thanks in part to all the sunshine and large amount of rain we’ve had.

However, most of you will probably notice that Mother Nature is getting quite a bit of help along the way. Landscaping crews are currently out there every day, installing planter boxes, planting flowers, bushes, and grasses, topping up topsoil and distributing mulch, planting new trees and replacing the few that didn’t survive the winter.

As you go for a stroll, ride your bike, drive, or take a bus ride along the rapidway[!], be sure to look around you and take in the newly tree-lined greenery-filled boulevard on Highway 7 East.

If you’d like to subscribe to email updates about the progress of the vivaNext project, click on this subscriber link, or go to our homepage at vivaNext.com and scroll down to “subscribe.”

 

greenery all around us

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

greenery all around us

Most people see the environmental benefits of having greenery around us. Trees and shrubs help to filter the air and water, and provide shade and habitat for animals and birds. But when you look at a tree, shrub or plant, it doesn’t bring to mind the economy. Last year, a report from TD Economics calculated that in Toronto, a single tree returns from $1.35 to $3.20 per every dollar spent on maintaining the “urban forest,” and the returns for Halifax and Vancouver were even higher. It also noted the higher value of real estate in neighbourhoods with mature tree canopies.

There are environmental benefits and economic value, and then there’s the intangible – the way we feel when we’re on a tree-lined street and the satisfaction we get from watching the seasons change. We may not look forward to snow, but you can’t deny it looks nice on tree branches.

If you’ve ever planted a garden, you know that every plant isn’t always successful, especially after a harsh winter. Along the new Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham and Richmond Hill, we’ve planted almost 300 trees and thousands of perennials and grasses. We use soil cell technology to ensure trees have the best chance at survival, and the types of trees and shrubs are selected carefully. Even so, sometimes a few don’t make it through the winter, in which case we replace them under the two-year warranty we have for all of our trees, shrubs and plants.

In the next couple of weeks, our landscaping crews will be out on Highway 7 to help the new greenery on Highway 7 East thrive for many years to come. Whether you’re walking through a forest or travelling Highway 7 East, we hope you connect with nature now that spring is finally, [finally!] here.

 

Earth Day and every day

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Earth Day and every day

This April 22 marks the 45th Earth Day – the 1970 event that served as a catalyst to the global environmental movement. This year, according to Earthday.org, it’s expected that a billion people will be participating in Earth Day activities, which makes it not just the largest environmental event in the world, but the largest “civic observance”.

The very idea of all those people celebrating with activities and activism warms our collective hearts here at vivaNext. According to Earthday.ca, in Canada alone, more than six million people will be participating in an Earth Day activity in their community.

If you’re also a tree-lover, plant-lover, cyclist, or transit geek, you probably feel as strongly about Earth Day as we do – Earth Day shares so many of the vivaNext goals. And every year, the arrival of Earth Day serves as a springtime reminder that we’re on the right track, as we continue building transit and reducing the need for car traffic, protecting or enhancing the natural environment, promoting smart growth, and building vibrant, livable cities, and healthy communities.

On Earth Day and every day, we continue to do our best to create rapid transit that provides our communities and citizens with a green travel option that’s convenient, and that helps to improve how residents get around York Region.

Interested in greening up your commute even more than you are currently? Earth Day Canada is presenting their annual Clean Commute challenge. The Clean Commute toolkit provides 25 ways to reduce your carbon footprint, plus you’ll find out the carbon reductions that can be achieved. Every effort is a step in the right direction.  Join us in making a difference.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

 

our buses are blue but we think green

Friday, March 6th, 2015

our buses are blue but we think green

In York Region, we’re lucky to have nature around us. From the Oak Ridges Moraine to our woodlands, waterways and wildlife, life is better when we’re surrounded by it.

Rapidway projects are designed with future growth in mind – including supporting population growth and supporting a large variety of new trees and shrubs. Along with dedicated lanes for rapid transit, each project brings urban renewal with wider sidewalks, updated utilities and plenty of trees, shrubs and plants. Since these are construction projects that include widening the road, some of the existing roadside and median trees need to be removed.

We’re currently removing trees located in York Region’s right-of-way for the Yonge Street rapidway project in Richmond Hill and Newmarket. All trees marked for removal were carefully evaluated first, to see if any could be transplanted. Due to the health of the trees and the potential conflicts with overhead and underground utilities, relocation was not possible. Crews will remove the majority of the trees before bird nesting season begins in mid-April. Any trees that still need to be removed after that will first be assessed by a Certified Arborist. Remaining trees around the construction area will be fenced and protected.

Once complete, each rapidway will be a tree-lined street, with attractive landscaping and trees and shrubs chosen for hardiness, appearance and height [to fit under hydro lines once mature]. An urban setting can be tough on a tree, so we use soil cell technology – a rigid framework under the sidewalks in rapidway areas that holds much more planting soil – to protect roots and ensure soil and water stay in place [e.g., see the soil cells we used on Highway 7 East]. New plantings have a guarantee, so if we have especially harsh weather, any that don’t make it will be replaced.

It takes a lot of effort, patience and planning, and the construction itself isn’t pretty. But our communities are growing and the rapidways let us connect faster using transit while keeping our connection to nature and greening our corridors. After this long cold winter, we will all be happy to see a few buds on the trees this spring!

 

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.