Archive for the ‘Live-work-play’ Category

bringing vaughan metropolitan centre to life

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

We recently posted a great blog on planning that talked about the link between transit and new urban communities. Given that tomorrow (November 8), urban planners from towns and cities in over 30 countries worldwide will celebrate World Town Planning Day, we thought we would take a moment to highlight another one of York Region’s amazing communities, and see how vivaNext transit projects fit into York Region’s planning vision.

In the Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy, selected areas in Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Markham and Vaughan are targeted to have new, urban “downtowns.” They will be vibrant, higher density, attractive destinations with a full range of amenities so that people can live, work, shop and play in the same community. These “centres” will be connected by transportation “corridors” that will make it easier for people to get around the region. That’s where we come in. Our vivaNext rapidways will run along the corridors, connecting the centres through transit and safe and efficient travel options for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike.

You can see the vision for one of these centres coming to life in the City of Vaughan’s new video about the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] . Located in the heart of Vaughan, centered on Highway 7, between Highway 400 and Creditstone Road, VMC will be one of the largest and most ambitious development projects in the area’s history, and is a superb location for Vaughan’s new downtown.

In the VMC, mixed-use transit-oriented development is proposed along a tree-lined main street, including businesses, residences, entertainment and cultural facilities, as well as pedestrian shopping areas. The VMC area will act as a transportation hub, including convenient passenger pick-up and drop-off, a York Region Transit bus terminal, and viva rapidways running in dedicated lanes along Highway 7.

VMC will also be home to the northernmost subway station, as part of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE], an 8.6 km subway extension from Downsview Station, northwest through York University and north to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. An entrance to VMC Station will be built on Millway Avenue, between Edgeley Boulevard and Jane Street to provide easy and efficient connections to other transit services.

With approximately 442 acres of development opportunities, VMC also includes:

  • Projected office development: 1.5 million SF
  • Projected retail development: 750,000 SF
  • Minimum of 12,000 residential units
  • Population potential: 25,000 new residents
  • Employment potential: 11,000 jobs of which 5,000 will be office jobs

It’s exciting to visualize how Vaughan will evolve in the years to come. To find out more about other vivaNext projects, visit our projects page.

 

a trend away from cars

Friday, October 11th, 2013

A recent article in the New York Times described a curious trend that’s showing up in countries as varied as Germany, Norway, Canada and Japan – a trend that shows fewer young people are driving cars compared to their parents.

The findings show that Millennials – people currently in their twenties – are less likely to get their driver’s licence now than in previous generations. Young people are more likely to take transit or cycle, and overall, the number of car trips taken on a per capita basis has been declining for the last several years.  In the US, people in their twenties drive about 20% less than their parents did when they were in their twenties.

There are quite a number of studies that together confirm this trend, although there’s no agreement on what is causing it. Increasing gas prices and weak economic climates in some countries may have contributed to this trend, researchers feel that other longer-term dynamics are the real reason young people are increasingly turning away from the car and finding other ways to get around.

One key theory is that increasing urbanization is a critical factor. In this theory, when people live within walking distance (defined as roughly 500 metres) from transit, it’s easier to leave the keys at home and let transit do the driving.

Whatever the reason, other recent studies carried out show that while baby boomers are ageing beyond the years when they drive the most miles, Millennials aren’t picking up the slack.  The result is that total miles driven is steadily decreasing, and is projected to continue to do so over time.

This change is bound to require a shift in long-term transportation policies developed by governments, including an increased investment in transit.

York Region residents do a lot of driving covering a large geographic area, and even with the launch of vivaNext along its major corridors, there’s no doubt this pattern isn’t going to change overnight.  But as it does, we’re going to be in good shape, thanks to our vivaNext plans for region-wide rapid transit giving residents more options.  We are already seeing the trend here with transit ridership increasing every year.

 

vivaNext – more to come

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

When it comes to the future of transit in York Region, you don’t have to look far. The first rapidway along Highway 7 east corridor is now up and running smoothly. With it came wide pedestrian-friendly boulevards, lined with trees and other greenery. The transformation taking place along the Viva routes will change how pedestrians, cyclists and motorists not only view the area in general, but get from A to B more easily, more safely and more efficiently.  Check out this 3600 virtual tour for a peak.

This is just the beginning of many miles of rapidway that are under construction or coming soon.  Here is an update of what’s happening.

Construction on Highway 7 East continues and crews are working hard from Highway 404 to Warden Avenue to widen the road, build pedestrian boulevards, plant trees and shrubs as well as installing utilities. This next segment of rapidway is expected to be completed in 2014.

Moving along Highway 7 west to Vaughan, you will see the vivaNext rapidway construction starting to take shape between Edgeley Boulevard and Bowes Road.  Over the last few months, crews have been working to remove signs, test soil and begin utility relocation to prepare for heavier construction.  Throughout the fall and winter, hydro, gas and telecommunications installations and relocations will continue in Vaughan.

Preliminary construction activity will also continue in other parts of Vaughan as vivaNext rapidway construction continues along Highway 7 West.   The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] station will be completed in time with the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE].  Vaughan’s VMC station will be the northernmost subway station, connecting to Viva and a variety of other transit services, for a convenient and seamless experience.

In Newmarket, as you drive or walk along Davis Drive, you’ll see that construction is in full swing and the transformation is starting to take shape. The relocation and replacement of underground infrastructure in some segments on the south side of Davis Drive is complete. In those sections, road widening and preliminary paving has started preparing the roadway for future rapidways.

Also in Newmarket, crews are working to re-locate the Historic Union Hotel and its adjoining building to their final foundations this fall. Extensive culvert work at eastern and western creek is underway.  Work continues on the north side of the Keith Bridge.  Once completed all this work will help make your travel along Davis Drive smoother and more efficient, especially if you are on transit!

Over the next few years, future rapidways will be added to the Viva routes to better service customers and make travel times shorter by up to 25%.  We know construction is messy, but the end results are marvelous!

using colour and shape to create welcoming pedestrian spaces

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

If you’ve walked along the new rapidway on Highway 7, you’ll have seen the vivaNext pavers we’ve installed on the boulevards.  We know from the feedback we’ve gotten that people love the new look.

Most sidewalks in York Region, like pretty much everywhere else, are made of concrete, and the most important consideration is functionality: they need to be safe, accessible, durable and easy to maintain.  But beyond those goals, we also want our new boulevards – which are wider than the Region’s regular sidewalks – to reinforce the complete street concept, the guiding philosophy for our vivaNext streetscape design.  With all the development coming to the Region’s centres and corridors, in the future there will be more pedestrians, whether they live, work, or commute along our rapidway routes.  So we’ve made sure that our boulevard design is going to be visually appealing as well as functional.

The boulevard is made up of the pedestrian zone and the furnishing zone. The pedestrian zone is typically a 2.0m wide sidewalk which is fully paved with light-toned coloured pavers near intersections, and paved with concrete in the mid-block areas. The sidewalk is a continuous system even across driveways to alert motorists that pedestrians have priority.

The furnishing zone is located next to the pedestrian zone. The furnishing zone is an area where pedestrian amenities, furniture and planters are located. It is paved in light coloured unit pavers which reinforce the identity of the vivaNext system.

We’re using a combination of coloured pavers which not only look great but also add to wayfinding for pedestrians.  The main field pavers are light-coloured cool gray with contrasting coloured accent bands which will increase in frequency as pedestrians approach the main intersections. The east-west accent bands are a red; the north-south accent bands are a dark charcoal gray.

Immediately adjacent to the roadway and running along beside the pedestrian zone is a 610mm wide “transition zone”, which will provide an important comfort buffer against bicycle and vehicular traffic. In the winter months, it also provides an area for snow storage and protects the adjacent plantings from salt spray. This zone will be paved in special “eco-pavers”, which allow water to seep through to the storm sewer system.

A charcoal gray coloured textured warning strip will alert visually impaired pedestrians that they are approaching an intersection or driveway. At midblock where the pedestrian zone in paved in concrete, the warning strip will be grooved concrete. Both approaches will provide a tactile clue for visually impaired pedestrians of potential conflicts.

We’ve given special attention to the boulevards near intersections to ensure they reinforce pedestrian priority and add to placemaking. These areas have been designed to function as urban plazas with unit paving and accent pavers. Soft landscaping will define the corners of the intersections and function as gateways to the adjacent areas.

By making the boulevards along the rapidways welcoming and attractive, we’re contributing to the development of York Region’s new urban centres, and adding more walkable places for us all to use.

 

making your trip more comfortable across the YRT\Viva system

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

You already know how excited we are to be introducing you to our new vivaNext rapidway system, with its comfortable and convenient stations and amenities, now open on Highway 7.   But for many transit riders across York Region, you’re YRT riders as well, and your comfort on that part of your commute is just as important to us.

YRT is currently carrying out upgrades to all their curbside stops across the YRT system to add new amenities and freshen up existing ones.  If you’ve been to the YRT stop at 16th Avenue and Warden you’ll already have seen the prototype that’s going to be installed everywhere.

Each YRT stop will get a modern new shelter, which will provide superior protection from the elements.  And for more comfort, each station will have new benches and garbage containers.  More and more people are choosing to commute by bike but if biking part-way then jumping on YRT\Viva suits you better, YRT is installing bike racks at each stop so you can leave your bike with confidence until your return.

YRT is going to be working their way through the entire system across the Region to upgrade all the YRT stops over the summer, with the Highway 7 rapidway sections being the first to change over to the new amenities this summer.  With the rapidways now open and the new YRT local stops being refreshed, Highway 7 has taken on a refurbished look and feel that highlights York Region’s commitment to serving its residents. Check out this video

These upgrades will bring a new level of comfort to YRT riders, and show the commitment YRT\Viva has to providing all its riders with a great customer experience, no matter what route they’re taking.  We encourage you to come visit the area!

need some retail therapy? ….your neighbourhood shops are open

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

We’ve all heard the term “retail therapy.” For some, shopping can be a remedy to cheer us up and for other’s it’s a way to relieve stress. Perhaps as you read this, you can relate to doing some of your own retail therapy at one time or another.  Whether we’re shopping for a pick-me-up, or need a few items from the store, I’m sure we can all agree there is nothing better than stopping at a good restaurant or finding a little boutique around the corner.

The businesses along the vivaNext rapidway corridors are a great example of the variety of unique restaurants, professional offices, and boutique shops available within your local community. No matter what the stage of transformation– in the heart of construction on Davis Drive, just starting construction on Highway 7 West, getting ready for construction on Yonge Street and completing the transformation of Highway 7 East, there is no change to how any of these businesses serve you.

As you drive or walk along Davis Drive and Highway 7 East you’ll notice the Shop Davis and Shop 7 billboards. These road signs are just one component of a broader advertising campaign in support of your local businesses. During construction along Highway 7 West and Yonge Street you’ll also see Shop billboards along these corridors, to help remind you to support your local retailers.

Perhaps you’ve even seen vivaNext staff out and about in your neighbourhood promoting your local businesses. As part of the shop local campaigns, you may have received a reusable shopping bag to use when you visit stores in your community. If you see a vivaNext staff member, come by, say hello and pick up your reusable shopping bags [while quantities last]. Your local businesses and vivaNext have you covered the next time you are out shopping in the neighbourhood.

To get to your favourite stores on Highway 7, why not take a ride on the new rapidway. The dedicated centre lanes for viva vehicles are now open on Highway 7, from Bayview to Highway 404 and will provide riders with faster, more consistent travel times, getting you to your destination faster so you can shop till you drop!  The new urban landscape and lovely boulevards are a great incentive to visit these revitalized areas in Markham and Richmond Hill. Stop by for some shopping or just stroll around, because these are great places to visit.

Whether you’re shopping for back to school, meeting friends for dinner, or buying a gift for that special someone, your local retailers and restaurants are open for regular business throughout vivaNext construction. To see a sample of the business offerings provided by your local retailers check out the business profiles section of the vivaNext website at vivanext.com

 

planting for beauty and longevity

Friday, August 16th, 2013

One of the wonderful new elements of the vivaNext streetscape is the number and variety of new plants that are being added, from the planters on the stations and in the median, to the trees and shrubs being planted along the boulevards and intersections.  The Landscape Architects, in conjunction with York Region’s Forestry Department, have worked long and hard on which plants will be included at each location.  Here’s what you’re going to be seeing planted along the rapidway corridor, and how they made their choices.

All the plant selections have been made with maximum survivability and sustainability in mind.  That means plants have to survive the urban conditions they’ll be surrounded by – with the main threat being the de-icing salt that needs to be used on the roads in winter.  Salt is toxic to many plants, so finding plants that can cope with having salt spray on their leaves and stems over the winter is a key consideration.  Plants also have to survive the wind and drought conditions that are part of being next to a roadway.  Another consideration for species selection concerns trees for planters under hydro lines.  In these locations, we need to find species with a maximum size and shape that will allow them to grow to their full potential, without needing to be pruned away from the lines.

Fortunately, York Region’s Forestry Department has had a lot of experience with the plants that thrive in the Region so coming up with lists of viable plants was straightforward.

Other considerations were related to the basic elements of design: shape, scale and colour.  We had clear overall design objectives to work with, consistent with the larger vivaNext aesthetic: the look was to be urban, stylized, and modular, similar to the look of our pavers.

Here are some images of our plants, including deciduous shrubs, evergreen shrubs for winter interest, hardy roses, ornamental grasses and perennials.

And to give them the best chance for survival, they will be planted in a special planting mix developed by the Region’s Forestry Department that will provide the optimum growing conditions.  Each tree will have a full 16 cubic metres of soil – that’s about the same amount as two dump truck-loads!

We’re looking forward to having people see the new landscaping, and we know it’s going to make a huge contribution to our goal of creating a more attractive, welcoming streetscape.  With the waving grasses and flowering plants, and shapely trees and shrubs, these public spaces will be more beautiful for years to come.

 

countdown

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

As we get closer and closer to the time when the Highway 7 rapidway will be ready for service, our teams are working hard to finish all sorts of little details.  With much of the construction complete, we’re now focused on the final stages of completion and testing, and then getting ready for handover, when the system is officially turned over to York Region and YRT, the system owners and operators.

Handover means just what it says – it’s the moment in time when a system is handed over to the owner for care and custody.  From that time going forward, a system – which until then has been the responsibility of the Contractor/Design Builder – becomes the private property of the owner, and anyone needing access to do any additional work needs to get the permission from the owner for access.

Because the formal handover is such a significant development, especially on a major infrastructure project like the vivaNext rapidway, it’s important to ensure everything is in perfect working order.  The various steps involved in commissioning, which is the testing period that takes place before handover, vary depending on what is being handed over.  For example, with the fare equipment, we make sure the ticket vending machine [TVM] prints properly.  With the traffic signals, once they’re programmed the permanent signals are turned on and each phase is tested individually, and all the push buttons are tested to make sure they work.

Streetlights are inspected to ensure all the wiring is according to the drawings; that the bases are level, and the power connections are all correct.  The teams go out at night to actually turn on the lights, to ensure all the lamps come on and nothing is flickering.  Lighting is an important safety feature for both pedestrians and vehicles.

Viva driver testing is completed to make sure drivers know how to use the rapidway, its signals, and the stations.

Every single detail is inspected through a visual walk-down and a list of the things that still need to be finished or perfected is created with items graded from most serious to least serious.

Once handover takes place, legal ownership and responsibility is transferred to the owner, and the Contractor/Design Builder’s warranty period begins, just the way it happens when a homebuyer takes possession of a new house.

Handover in this case means some elements of the rapidway, like the rapidway, stations, boulevards and planters, are transferred to the Region.  Others, like the sidewalks and streetlights are transferred to the local municipality to maintain.

Ultimately, everyone who has a stake in vivaNext wants to see it work as designed, to provide a reliable, efficient rapid transit system and beautiful streetscape.  Because, at the end of the day, the ultimate owners are the people who are depending on it to work well: the public of York Region and we all want this to be a system to be proud of.

 

testing, testing, testing

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

As you will know from driving along Highway 7, our rapidway construction is really coming along, and this summer a segment will be going into operation.  We still have a bit more work ahead of us before service operation can begin, including some work which will be obvious such as final paving, striping and landscaping.  But in addition to that work, we’re just getting underway on a less-obvious but highly important part of the job, which is to ensure that all parts of the rapidway project are ready for active service.

This stage – known in the construction world as commissioning – is critically important, and planning for it on the Highway 7 rapidway has already been in progress for many months.

So what does commissioning involve, and how do we do it?

First of all, the technical definition of commissioning is that it is the process of assuring that all systems and components of a system are designed, installed and tested according to the operational requirements that have been established.

In the case of vivaNext, the most visible components of the project include the new roadways, passenger stations and amenities, and streetscape elements such as lighting, sidewalks and landscaping.  Ongoing inspections are being done as construction progresses to ensure that these are being built to certain specifications, before they are handed over for use.  Commissioning is a more detailed focus on the key systems and components that together make up the overall communications network.

These components include the fare collection equipment that will be installed at all stations; the station information systems such as the variable message signs, clocks and Public Address systems; passenger security elements such as closed circuit TV systems and emergency call buttons; and the traffic signals at intersections.  It also includes the sophisticated Transit Vehicle Detection system, which will provide information to the traffic signals when rapid transit vehicles are approaching intersections, as well as the overall communications system and fibre optic network that links all of these components.

Obviously these components are very complex, and a huge amount of effort goes into designing and building this equipment to the highest standards in the first place to make sure it will work as intended.  But we also build in a lengthy process of testing to make sure all the pieces are talking to each other in the way they’re designed to.

Testing starts at the factory, where the fabricator verifies that the equipment works as it is intended, and then each component is tested again once it’s installed.  Once all the components are installed and each one is confirmed to be working as designed, a series of additional tests are carried out to confirm that the entire system is integrated properly and working together.

The final step involves testing the reliability and function of the entire system, including simulating actual operation using buses and staff acting as passengers, which gives the people who will be involved in the future operation, maintenance and service of the rapidway an opportunity to become familiar with the new equipment and facilities.

This entire process takes several months, and is done at each individual station and intersection as its equipment is installed.  So you can see that there’s still a lot of work behind the scenes to get to the day we’re all looking forward to – when the first viva vehicle pulls into the rapidway for the first time on Highway 7 in August.

 

what’s a rapidway?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

The word rapidway is new to most people, but pretty soon it’s going to be a very familiar concept for people in York Region.  We’ve had lots of interest from people wondering how exactly the rapidway on Highway 7 is going to work once it’s in service this year, and whether it will result in any changes for drivers, transit users and pedestrians.  So to get you started, here’s a primer on some rapidway basics.  Then for more detailed information, check out this blog over the upcoming days and weeks, for lots more information about what’s being built and how it’s going to benefit all of us.

  1. Who can actually drive in the rapidway?
  2. The rapidway will only be used by vivavehicles.  YRT buses will continue to run in mixed traffic as they do now, and will continue to use their existing curbside stops.  The exception is emergency vehicles; fire, ambulance, police, who may use the rapidways to help them through traffic.

    Under no circumstances will cars or other vehicles ever use the rapidway.  We’ll have signs at the beginning of the rapidway in each direction, making it very clear that non-viva vehicles must not enter.

  3. How will I know how to stay off the rapidway?
  4. We’ve made it easy to see where the rapidway begins, by paving the whole rapidway with distinctive bright red asphalt (see my blog in the next couple of weeks on red asphalt). It will be very obvious where the edges of the rapidway begin and end. To make it even more obvious, a rumble strip has been installed along the edges of the rapidway. Driving over the rumble strip will produce a loud noise if a driver begins to edge into the rapidway by mistake.

  5. How will I make a turn across the rapidway
  6. We’ve designed several features that will make it very clear where and when drivers can turn across the rapidway. (look for my blog in the next couple of weeks for more description of the new intersections and traffic signals). Left turns will only be allowed at intersections, which will have well-marked turning lines painted on them. The rapidways will have their own dedicated transit signals for viva drivers, which will be clearly marked and separate from the left turn signals for all other drivers. Lastly, there will be a protected left turn phase, meaning that drivers turning left (or making u-turns) will get a separate green arrow on its own phase, before through-traffic is allowed to move.

  7. How will pedestrians get to the vivastations?
  8. Every station is located adjacent to a signalized intersection, with a clearly marked crosswalk to make it easy to cross to the station in the median. Because Highway 7 with the rapidway lanes in the middle is now wider than it used to be, some pedestrians may want to cross the road in two stages, going to the median on the first stage, and then crossing to the other side on the second stage.

So that’s the most basic primer on how the rapidway will work, but I know people have many more questions. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post an ongoing series of blogs on all the features of the new Highway 7 rapidway. But in the meantime, we want to know what you’d like more information on. Help us out by filling in your priority topics in this simple survey:

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