Archive for the ‘Going Green’ Category

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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Protecting our trees to keep York Region green

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Crew works on transplanting trees
Tree buds are an early sign of spring, their canopies are beautifully green in the summer, and we all love their colours in the fall. For many of us, the mature trees on our streets and woodlots are attractive features of York Region’s established neighbourhoods.

So when we develop the rapidway construction schedule and plan, in addition to all the other construction tasks, one of our priorities is to protect and actually increase the number of trees along our routes.

As we design and build our rapidways along Highway 7 and Davis Drive in Newmarket, here’s what we’re doing to take care of the trees we have, and plan for new ones to ensure they continue to thrive into the future.

To start with, we all have a shared commitment to making sure our construction activities minimize impacts to our natural environment. This is a formal commitment that is made early on, in the Environmental Assessments that need to be completed and approved, long before work can begin.

One of our commitments is that our construction activities minimize impacts on trees. At the stage of final design for a rapidway segment, we walk the route with our Arborists to do a careful inventory of all the trees, inspecting each and tagging them, to make sure every tree is included in our construction drawings.

For those trees that are near the construction right-of-way, we look at ways to protect them by installing special protective fencing. We will also look at alternative construction methods where we can to work around a tree, or avoid harming its roots or branches.

For trees that are in the construction right-of-way, we identify any trees that could be safely dug up and replanted somewhere else. Then we work with the local community to identify locations to transplant the trees.

There are some trees that just can’t be saved, either due to a tree’s poor health or other factors. But our commitment is that for every tree we remove, we will replace it with at least one – if not more – new trees.

So this means that once the Highway 7 and Davis Drive rapidway projects are complete, there will be 45% more trees along Highway 7 East and nearly 27% more trees along Davis Drive. Highway 7 and Davis Drive will each be significantly greener when we’re done, and all in all, this adds up to more spring buds, and more fall leaves, for us all to enjoy in the future.

New technology takes root: helping trees grow

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Diagram and photo of Cupolex

Among the beautiful benefits of the vivaNext project will be the improvements we’re going to make 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. Ensuring those trees survive in a tough urban environment is always a challenge, which is where science and technology come in.

Fortunately, our Landscape Architects are up to the challenge, and have tricks up their sleeves to keep our trees healthy and growing strong. To begin with, choosing the right tree is critical. Street trees, especially ones along roads carrying a lot of fast-moving traffic, need to be the kind that can stand up to salt spray and pollution from vehicles. Street trees also need to be relatively drought tolerant, and able to thrive without daily maintenance.

To meet these needs, our Arborist and Landscape Architects focused on a range of hardy trees, including different types of gingko, oak, maple, common hackberry, Kentucky coffee tree, ornamental pear and elm.

Once they’d solved the issue of which trees to plant, Landscape Architects turned to the other big problem facing urban plantings: 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. Our team 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.

Our soil cell technology is called Cupolex®, and was originally designed as a technique to provide a solid underground framework for ductwork and cables. At first glance it looks like a plastic patio table, with hollow legs at each corner. A series of these patio tables are installed underground, with their legs interlocking, forming a large honeycomb shape – a soil cell – surrounding where the tree will be planted. Then concrete is poured into the legs and over the top, creating a hard, self-supporting shell strong enough to support the weight of vehicles. The boulevard and sidewalks are constructed right over top, with openings left for planting trees. Special access hatches and irrigation pipes are installed for future tree maintenance, and then nutrient-rich soil is blown in, and trees are planted in the openings.

We’re not talking a regularly sized planter full of soil: each soil cell holds at least 16 cubic metres of soil. And each cubic metre is about the size of a stove, so imagine 16 stoves worth of soil for each tree! A typical dump truck holds 8-10 cubic metres, so each tree is going to get more than a dump truck of soil. That’s a lot of soil, and it’s really going to help our trees’ survivability.

Our vivaNext pledge is to do the best planning now, for a beautiful and functional rapid transit system and streetscape. Creating healthy, strong trees that can be enjoyed for generations is part of that, and it’s something we can all be proud of.

Protecting the environment

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Protecting the Environment

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably explored the vivaNext website and will have seen the information section on environmental assessments. But what that section doesn’t really describe, is why we do environmental assessments in general, and how they are done. So here is my version of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Environmental Assessments.

To begin with, the premise of an environmental assessment is based on a really important principle: projects that are being built in a community (whether large, like a new power plant, or relatively small like a new street) must address any potential negative effects on the natural, social or structural environment. Equally important, is the requirement that the community – including all members of the public – be given opportunities to understand the planned project, what impacts it is likely to have and how those will be addressed, and to provide comments before the project is approved.

Our provincial and federal environmental assessment processes are the safety net that ensure a project has been carefully analyzed, and negative effects on the community are minimized. These environmental assessment processes also look at how a proposed project fits into a community’s plans for its future, to ensure it will enhance rather than interfere with a community’s vision for itself. Whether a project needs to go through the provincial process, the federal process, or both, depends on the type of project, the project proponent or owner, and the effects it will have.

All municipal infrastructure projects in Ontario are subject to environmental assessment under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act. Depending on the type, complexity and potential effects of a project, it may be subject to one of the provincial environmental assessment processes, such as the Individual Environmental Assessment, Municipal Class Environmental Assessment or the new Transit Project Assessment Process, which now governs and expedites the environmental assessment and approval for transit projects. Although the steps and timelines differ for each type of provincial environmental assessment, all allow similar opportunities for the community and public agencies to comment on a project.

Each environmental assessment process involves evaluating a project to determine what impacts it will have, and how those impacts will be addressed. Impacts range from how the project will affect the natural environment (plants, wildlife, air, water and geography), to social effects such as increased noise and vibration, traffic impacts, and access to properties and businesses. Throughout the process, the public is consulted at prescribed stages. For instance, as part of the Transit Project Assessment Process, once the assessment has been completed and documented, it is made public for 30 days, during which anyone can review it and provide comments. At the final stage of the Transit Project Assessment Process, the Minister of the Environment has 35 days to either approve the project or require further work to be done. The entire process must take no more than six months.

Federal environmental assessments are done when a project may have an impact on an area within federal jurisdiction. For vivaNext projects, those areas are mostly related to navigable waters and fish habitat in rivers and creeks that will be crossed by our rapid transit lines. In the case of navigable waters, the intent is to make sure that our project will not have a significant effect on the public’s existing ability to access or use a waterway. An officer from the Navigable Waters office reviews our plans then literally comes and looks at all the watercourses our transit lines will cross, even the smallest creeks and streams, to see if either the roadway or any planned bridges will affect these waterways.

In the case of fisheries, we work closely with the local conservation authorities to assess whether the project will potentially harm fish habitats. In either case, if there is a chance that our project will have an impact, then a federal environmental assessment is required. Data collected during the provincial environmental assessment is used in the federal environmental assessment as far as possible to avoid duplication and a coordinated process has been developed to further improve efficiency. So far, the North Yonge Street corridor is the only Viva project that required a federal environmental assessment, which was completed on August 19, 2010.

Once the environmental assessment approvals are completed, we work closely with provincial and federal agencies, monitoring our projects to ensure we’ve lived up to our promises.
So as you can see, the entire environmental assessment process is a thorough and comprehensive one, as well as being totally transparent, to ensure the public knows what’s happening. I’d encourage you to read up on our vivaNext environmental assessments, and to also check out these links for more background information on the federal process and the provincial process:

Colouring Viva blue – and green

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

70-cars-before-and-after

The vivaNext rapidways being built across York Region are good news for the environment.  More people taking transit means less pollution. One Viva vehicle can replace up to 70 cars on the road – that represents a huge reduction in carbon emissions. With fewer cars on the road, gridlock, fuel use and air pollution caused by idling cars are all reduced.

There is also a direct connection between how our communities are developed, and the impact we have on our environment. Sprawling communities mean that people tend to travel farther between work, home and play. The more spread out a community is, the harder it is to provide efficient public transit. So, people become increasingly dependent on cars, and the developments that get built are more likely to be car-oriented. The more that happens, the less convenient it is for people to take transit. Eventually, entire communities become dependent on cars, and are less likely to use transit, cycle or walk to get around. More cars mean more gridlock, more pollution and more carbon emissions.

On the other hand, communities that are developed around great transit are more likely to include compact, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods.  Mixed-use developments and shorter distances between work-live-play destinations make it easier to get around and make transit a more appealing and convenient choice for a greater number of people.

The result: more people out and about, enjoying their energetic and dynamic local neighbourhood, and walking in the fresh air to ride in a comfortable, low-emission Viva vehicle.

And for people who continue to drive, their trips will be shorter due to the compact, mixed-use developments that have sprung up around transit – so once again, car usage will be reduced, resulting in less pollution and fuel consumption.

All of this is good news for the environment, for our health, and for our lifestyle.

Who knew picking up trash could be fun?

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

earthday_2010_04_23

Did you know that Earth Day is the biggest and most celebrated environmental event in the world?

On Thursday, April 22, vivaNext staffers were among the one billion people in 170 countries who took part in this global event to tackle local environmental challenges. We donned our bright Viva blue shirts and raced the clock – and each other – to see who could pick up the most trash along one stretch of the future Highway 7 rapidway in York Region.

Who won? Well, everyone wins when we each do our part to clean up the planet!

You may be surprised to learn that organizers of the very first Earth Day celebrations were also supporters of live-work-play communities. Then again, perhaps you see the connection between sustainability and pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented spaces.

We certainly feel a strong connection with the values of Earth Day here at vivaNext HQ; 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 are working 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 sound way.

Check out our video and see how we did. Tell us if you participated in any Earth Day activities or submit your video!

Can you guess what Earth Hour, vivaNext and your laundry all have in common?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

earth-hour_2010_03_232This coming Saturday, March 27, at 8:30 p.m., hundreds of millions of people around the world will turn off their non-essential lights and other electrical appliances for one hour in support of Earth Hour.

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 participants taking part. The following year, it had grown to more than 50 million participants in 35 countries and by 2009, hundreds of millions of participants in 88 countries showed their support. Based on this phenomenal growth, there is every reason to believe that Earth Hour 2010 will be the biggest and best yet. Those of us who work in the vivaNext office plan to participate, and hope you will too.

So have you guessed what Earth Hour, vivaNext and your laundry all have in common yet? Just like hanging your clothes to dry, taking rapid transit is one of the little things you can do on a regular basis to lessen your impact on the environment.